Around the middle of the twentieth century, over a period of decades, the LA County Flood Control District did their damnedest to encase most of the city’s waterways in concrete. Apparently it seemed like a good idea at the time. From our contemporary perspective, it looks like a colossal mistake. But what can we do? We don’t have the means to break up the hundreds of miles of concrete that were poured back in the last century. So we’re doing what we can, getting behind small projects that we hope will eventually have a cumulative impact.
I’ve lived in LA all my life, and it still amazes me how little I know about this city. The Tujunga Wash runs from the San Gabriel Mountains, across the San Fernando Valley and feeds into the LA River around Studio City. Recently I started paying attention to the stretch that runs along Coldwater Canyon between Burbank and Oxnard. What I found was pretty interesting.
Above Oxnard, I found the Tujunga Wash Greenway and Stream Restoration Project. What used to be a drab stretch of land running alongside a drab stretch of concrete has been transformed into a lush green walkway which helps to replenish our groundwater.
For a better explanation than I could give, click on this link to a page at the Landscape Architecture Foundation. They also provide before and after pictures to give you a sense of how dramatic the change has been.
Below Oxnard, I found the Great Wall of Los Angeles. This is a massive, amazing public art project which presents a history of Los Angeles starting with the first people who lived in the area and ending in the fifties. The project is the brainchild of Judy Baca, founder of the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). It was begun in the seventies, with over 400 young people and their families working over five summers to create the mural that currently covers a half mile of concrete inside the Tujunga Wash.
The mural starts with images of the Chumash Indians.
It covers the construction of the the massive projects that helped build the city, like the railroads….
….and the aqueduct.
It illustrates the multiple waves of migration the populated the area.
There are images of the traumatic upheavals that shaped LA.
It takes us through the baby boom….
….and the beginnings of rock n’ roll.
There are plans to paint another four decades, which would bring the project up to the end of the twentieth century. For more information, and to find out how to donate, visit SPARC’s web site.
You won’t find much water in the Tujunga Wash these days. But you will find some other things that are worth checking out.