You probably recognise the Los Angeles River, even if you don’t know it exists. It has, after all, proved to be a favourite filming location, featured in such classic movies as Point Blank, Point Break, Chinatown and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. That square, dry concrete channel more suited to dramatic car chases than boat races is, at least in name, a waterway – though during the summer it slows to little more than a trickle in some parts.
The US Government clad the river in concrete in the 1930s after a glut of floods, thus depriving LA of the feature that defines so many other world cities. The riverbanks, too, were scrubbed out: some of the few green spaces in the urban sprawl.But now that process looks set to be reversed.
A seven-year feasibility study by the US Army Corps of Engineers is finally due to be published this week, detailing proposals that would restore long sections of the river in the heart of LA to their semi-natural state, peeling away the concrete and, as far as possible, regenerating the natural ecosystem.
Meanwhile, a bike path along all 51 miles of the riverbank – from the Valley to the Ocean – is due for completion by 2020.
With the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency, several firms have even started kayaking tours of some surprisingly picturesque river stretches, previously hidden in a city built for drivers, not for walkers – and certainly not for paddlers.