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Group to Kayak LA River Today through Sunday

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A father and son kayak in the LA River in August, 2007, in Sherman Oaks (story and photos here) | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist

This afternoon in Canoga Park, 12 kayakers are going to begin a 51-mile, three-day journey down the LA River to Long Beach. They have no permit to enter the river, but that's part of the point. The Army Corps of Engineers caused a stir in the community last month when they declared that the Los Angeles Riverwas not, in fact, a river because it was not navigable, save for two spots.

Many people including politicians, community members, environmentalists and George Wolfe, Editor of the LaLa Times and the leader of today's expedition, said this is detrimental to the city. "We’re here to defend the right of the people of Los Angeles to use their own river. The city was founded where it is precisely because of the river," Wolfe explains noting that this weekend's expedition takes the stance that "public trust law in California contains certain inalienable rights of access to the waters of the U.S., and that these time-honored, common sense laws supercede all bureaucratic misgivings, justifications and obfuscations regarding the denial of our request."

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Wolfe wanted to do this trip a year ago, but was denied permits. So he did it anyway before being ousted by police. As for this trip, once again, no permits were granted and, once again, he is still going on with it.

"Our permits were largely denied under the pretense of 'safety concerns.' Yes, rivers can be unsafe; this is obvious. Up near Bakersfield, the Kern River can be dangerous, too, and prone to sudden flooding -- but no one there says you can't have access to it, that it's not the people's river to enjoy as they see fit," Wolfe said in a statement. "Some children drown in bathtubs each year, but should we then declare that people shouldn't bathe? Down here we have lots of streets and freeways. They can be dangerous. Should we regulate them and tell people that they can't be on them, that cars are dangerous objects, and that the people who are driving them are setting a bad example? If a person wants to enjoy Zuma Beach or some other park, and climb around on the rocks up there, or even go rock-climbing, who's to say that they can't do that? But... if you enter into any of these activities, you automatically accept all the safety concerns that go with them."

People are welcome to come watch the kayakers this afternoon in Canoga Park (info below). Wolfe was very excited about the journey when LAist spoke to him on the phone earlier this week. "I feel a bit like a fish out of water, to have this in an urban setting is pretty amazing." Of note, there is a 7-mile set of class 1 rapids in the Glendale Narrows that he's looking forward to navigate.

From an E-mail

3:00 pm. Kick-off ceremony/"launch" at the LA River Headwaters on the overpass @ Owensmouth Ave. (San Fernando Valley). Supporters welcome. {Canoga Park, 91303}. From the Westside headed on the 405N, take Victory Blvd. exit, go west about 7 miles. Just prior to Topanga Cyn Blvd, take a right at Owensmouth. Park, find the group assembled at the overpass.

From the 101, I believe you could take the Topanga Cyn Blvd (route 27) NORTH to Victory Blvd, go right a block, then left on Owensmouth. Just past Vanowen St. are the "headwaters."

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