“They’re just on a different time frame,” Wolfe says of the Ad Hoc River Committee, a group of city officials tasked with creating an access policy and implementing a short- and long-term plan for the city’s waterway.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes, who heads up the river committee, says kayakers like Wolfe will one day be able to access the river. But first, the city must build pathways and access points and educate residents about water safety. Perhaps more daunting, the dozens of communities? along the river will also have to create ?development plans for their own stretches of the river.
But it’s not all abstract policy for Reyes. Like Wolfe, he has had his own experience with the river. Recalling his childhood, Reyes remembers the violence that plagued his neighborhood playgrounds. The river was a welcome escape, albeit a dangerous one.
“We would jump a barbed-wire fence, play chicken with oncoming trains as we crossed the tracks, and eventually we’d get [to the river],” Reyes says.
At the river, Reyes and his friends would skip rocks, swim and even fish. It’s an experience the councilmember wants to bring to the city’s children in park-poor ?neighborhoods, but citing similar initiatives in Denver and San Antonio, Reyes says it will be an ongoing process.
But for Wolfe, the best way to change people’s minds about the river is to wade into the water. In the wake of the EPA’s decision, Wolfe had hoped to shift from politics to tourism. Through L.A. River Expeditions, a group he set up in 2008 to promote better stewardship of the river, Wolfe garnered interest from hundreds of residents who want to kayak L.A. on future trips put on by Wolfe and his group. “We even had a woman in her 80s,” Wolfe says. But that plan is on hold for now. And Wolfe, who says he got a taste for how slow the process can be while working to save the river over the past few years, says he isn’t holding his breath for access anytime soon. But then again, this is Hollywood, and with Wolfe’s wife working on a documentary about her husband’s fight to save — and use — the river, there’s always the chance another movie could coax Angelenos into the water.