By CBSLA Staff

ELYSIAN VALLEY (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles River spans nearly 51 miles — running from Canoga Park to Long Beach.

The Los Angeles River spans nearly 51 miles — running from Canoga Park to Long Beach.(CBSLA)

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“It is a historic river, and is actually our city’s namesake,” Marissa Christiansen, president of the Friends of the Los Angeles River, said.

Christiansen said the river changed in the 1930s after a series of catastrophic floods hit the region and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channelized the entire length of the river — encasing it in concrete — and turning it into a flood control channel.

“This used to be the place where the native peoples who originally populated this area would gather and use for sustenance,” she said.

Christiansen and the Friends of the L.A. River hope to bring the river back to its roots.

And, for Earth Week, FOLAR is planning a huge cleanup. From June to July, the group is asking for help cleaning up 100 tons of trash from the waterway.

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“What happens is large storm events come through in the mountains, everything travels down, any piece of trash that ends up in the street or the gutter within the watershed eventually ends up here in the river,” Christiansen said.

And all of that trash ends up going into the ocean, like what happened in 2019 in Seal Beach where coastal areas were covered in trash after a series of heavy rain storms. It’s a problem L.A. County says it is working to address.

Overseen by L.A. County Public Works, an updated master plan is focused on improving river access, ecosystem support, cultural and educational opportunities and affordable housing. That plan, which some have said could force people out of their homes, is now open for public comment.

As for Christiansen, she is hoping for a more natural river and wants the county looks at opportunities across the watershed so the river has more space and ability to function as a healthy ecosystem.

“We see this as a huge opportunity to look at the river, not just as a single waterway, but as a part of a 900-square-mile watershed system,” she said.

More information about the master plan can be found online.

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Those interested in getting involved in a river cleanup can find more information on FOLAR’s website.