Can you ever have too many friends? Friends of the LA River got 6,000 volunteers mobilized for the just-completed 30th Annual Great LA River CleanUp: La Gran Limpieza. The CleanUp that started three decades ago with just 10 people, lead by river advocate and FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams, has galvanized over 70,000 volunteers—as individuals and groups from across the Los Angeles region—since then, and Mr. MacAdams was on hand during the second weekend event to witness his legacy and be celebrated. The CleanUp that he began ran for three April weekends, across 11 sites along the length of the Los Angeles River to remove over 100 tons (or 200,000 lbs.) of collected plastic debris, waste and trash from the riparian ecosystem and prevented it from reaching the Ocean.
Executive Director Marissa Christiansen noted that FoLAR intends to continue to grow this powerful legacy and leverage the enthusiasm it generates to direct policy that supports the River as a priority for government, business and the community alike. Christiansen commented: “Every year, Angelenos come to the River in April and practice our collective stewardship of this natural resource. We’re thrilled our 30th Annual CleanUp elicited such participation from residents throughout the 51-mile River community. Our work continues day in and day out as we push for a meaningful public access and ecological restoration right here on our River, while delivering a new legacy for future generations. Thanks to our volunteers, we continue to be the largest urban river cleanup in the country.”
April’s CleanUp focused on diverse sites ranging from the lush Sepulveda Basin in the San Fernando Valley, to the verdant Mid-River Glendale Narrows, to the massive Willow Street Estuary in Long Beach. Regularly found trash includes numerous shopping carts, plastic bags (fewer every year), snack wrappers, cups, and mattresses, and this year, even an electric scooter, underbrush in an embankment.
Elected officials who participated in the CleanUp festivities included: Congressman Alan Lowenthal; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo, Mike Gipson, Adrian Nazarian, Patrick O’Donnell; Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, Mitch O’Farrell, and David Ryu; Long Beach Councilmembers Al Austin and Lena Gonazlez; and City of Bell Councilmember Nestor Valencia. Ted Garcia of the Tongva Nation provided a traditional river blessing to open the program.
MacAdams (pictured below) knew that Angelenos would love their river again and become its stewards. With the creation of FoLAR 30 years ago, he took the lead in making that happen, emphasizing that “each area of the Los Angeles River is unique and requires special attention and appreciation.” FoLAR’s stewardship of the River encourages community engagement, education and enjoying time at the river.
To that end, volunteers were entertained during the events by popular local bands that came to the CleanUp to connect with the LA River community. Select sites also featured FoLAR’s 38’ mobile visitor and education center, the LA River Rover, which taught close to 800 volunteers about the LA River’s past, present, and future at three CleanUp sites in April.
The 2019 CleanUp was made possible through major support from Postmates, who provided promotional support, and on-site activation in the form of free lunch for volunteers, while mobilizing their userbase to participate in one of LA’s largest volunteer events. In addition, FoLAR would like to thank the Cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach for their continued support. Long Beach is a proud sponsor of the CleanUp, and Los Angeles provides support through its Public Works agency and Department of Sanitation. FoLAR is grateful to Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) outreach specialists, who work regularly with individuals experiencing homelessness in the riverbed, and guide FoLAR staff and volunteers on best practices around people experiencing homelessness there. Other financial sponsors include an array of corporations and other entities that give back to Southern California communities. Information on sponsorship opportunities are available online at folar.org.
(L to R) Back Row: Asm Carrillo, ED MC, Councilmember David Ryu, and representatives from the LA Mayor’s Office and CA Sen Portantino’s Office. Front Row: Councilmember O’Farrell, FoLAR Founder Lewis MacAdams, and Postmates VP of Public Policy Vikrum Ayer