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Los Angeles River: Kayaking, fishing come to downtown L.A. (+video)

Los Angeles River: The river is best known as a concrete backdrop for Hollywood films, but now one portion has been reclaimed as a recreation area – with perhaps more to come.

Monday marked the first time in 80 years that the Los Angeles River has been open for boating, and some environmentalists and city politicians hope it is only a beginning.
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The barren concrete sluice is best known as the location of the drag racing scene in "Grease" or the place where Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a leather-clad, Harley-riding cyborg, was chased by a semi truck in “Terminator 2.”

On Monday, however, a stretch of the Los Angeles River called Elysian Valley wouldn't have made Huckleberry Finn feel out of place: rushing whitewater, quacking ducks, fishermen reeling carp, and a collection of kayaks.

The opening of the 2-1/2-mile "pilot recreation zone" Monday marked the first time in 80 years that the Los Angeles River has been open for boating, and some environmentalists and city politicians hope it is only a beginning.

City Councilman Ed Reyes said at the opening ceremony Monday that the project should be a model for extended reclamation of the river in other spots. Several other officials also stepped to the mike to say they hoped Elysian Valley starts further development of much needed open space, urban parkland, watershed, trails, and wildlife habit.

“This is one of the most significant things we’ve ever done,” said Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), a local agency formed under state authority that manages 69,000 acres of public parkland. 

Shortly after the ceremony Monday, dozens of people were launching kayaks and canoes, tapping the soft riverbed with their oars, and letting out delighted shrieks. Four hundred yards upstream, a man grabbed two, 18-inch carp that he had reeled onto the bank. As part of the pilot program, the public can access the river without a permit sunrise to sunset every day through Labor Day.

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