Get inspired with FoLAR and the LA River: By now, if you haven’t heard about all the exciting stuff going on in and around the LA River, then you must be living under a rock. We think it’s pretty safe to say that the buzz around the LA River revitalization has turned into a load roar. It seems everyone is talking about events and happenings in and around the River, it’s hard to keep up. Weather it’s an educational outing, activity for adventure seekers, or exploring the new developments that have popped up along the River’s edges, the LA River’s time to shine is NOW.
And the group to thank behind much of the excitement is FoLAR: Friends of the Los Angeles River.
FoLAR is at the front lines concerning policy and planning that is putting the LA River on people’s radar – both locally and state wide. These folks are working to ensure a vibrant River experience now and for generations to come. And, not to mention they’re a pretty damn cool group of people! We recently cough up with Executive Director Marissa Christiansen to learn about her role, the exciting stuff going on this summer 2017 season, and what inspires her.
How long have you been with FOLAR and what path brought you here?
I am now six months into my tenure as Executive Director after joining FoLAR as Senior Policy Director a year ago. Being handed the reins by a Los Angeles shaper as iconic as Lewis MacAdams is both inspiring and humbling. Like many Angelenos, my life’s path has been a winding, nuanced and creative one. My primary passions are California’s natural landscapes, the built environment, and human interaction. So naturally, I was drawn to LA to earn my Master in Urban Planning from USC. With my passions and new-found knowledge base, I quickly realized my puzzle piece was best suited for LA’s nonprofit jigsaw and I yearned to help shape the City for which I have the deepest abiding love. Now – nearly a decade later – I am lucky enough to be at the center of what I consider to be the most exciting opportunity for reclaimed urban wilderness for the region I’ve come to call home. Los Angeles is the greatest place on the planet – it and its people deserve a venerable River.
Get inspired with FoLAR and the LA River
What is it about the organization that inspires you the most?
Los Angeles is a multi-polar city, with a million distractions and identities. The amazing thing about working along our City’s River is that you can observe the nuanced ways in which we are all connected. The River’s 51 miles cut through many different types of communities who face different challenges. FoLAR’s focus is on projects and values that will improve the lives of all communities connected through the River.
Ultimately, the Los Angeles River and its concrete banks represent the greatest opportunity for us to demonstrate 21st century environmental stewardship. As humans we have learned a great deal about ecosystems and the crucial need to maintain biodiversity to promote a rich habitat for both humans and wildlife.
There is SO MUCH buzz around the LA River and revitalization these days – can you tell us about some ofFOLAR’s flagship restoration projects and/or other projects you’re most excited about?
Absolutely! We are honored and encouraged by the growing interest in our urban waterway. When Lewis MacAdams founded FoLAR 30 years ago, very few people wanted to visit our river. Now, through sustained efforts we have brought the River to the people and people to their River.
This year we saw two major developments for River revitalization. Firstly the city acquired the G2 Parcel which will bring 42 acres of green space into the public realm in the coming years. This land has been called the “crown jewel” of the LA River – and FOLAR is excited to engage with the community as we convert it from its present usage as a rail yard into a publicly accessible space for wildlife habitat and public recreation.
Secondly, $100 million from Prop 1 funding is a huge success for the River. FoLAR has pushed for this money since the 2014 bond was approved – the funding will be split 50/50 between upper and lower River projects. Interested viewers can keep tabs on these projects by joining FoLAR newsletters or visiting our website and engaging with Friend of the Los Angeles River.
What would you like Angelenos to keep in mind when they think of the LA River?
I would like for Angelenos to use their imagination when they think of the LA River. Virtually all Angelenos have only ever known the concrete channel of direct angles and engineered turns. By interacting with the wildlife and vegetation along the River, Angelenos can imagine both the past – when the River meandered a new path every rainy season – and the future. For us to realize an urban ecosystem open and accessible to our community we will need to imagine the greener future, and set our imaginations loose along our River’s concrete banks.
Congrats on the kick off to the Frog Spot for summer 2017! Any new additions from past summers we can look forward to?
Thank you! We are always excited to host the community at the Frog Spot. Every weekend you can visit the Frog Spot to participate in morning yoga, take a nature walk, or learn from our engaging educational programming. This summer we have excellent musical performances that make the Frog Spot a perfect place to meet friends or make new ones!
Get inspired with FoLAR and the LA River
FOLAR’s FrogSpot team is excited to present some awesome programming through the end of the summer – here’s some details on upcoming shows:
July 29, 2017 – Saturday
Frieda’s Roses (no web sites)
Future Lovers http://www.futureloversband.com
Lovey Dove – https://www.facebook.com/LoveyDoveInc
August 5, 2017 – Saturday
Ghosts of Echo Park https://www.facebook.com/theghostsofechopark/
Eskimo Kisses (Mikaiah Lei from The Bots solo) – https://soundcloud.com/skimoisses
Tone In Georgia https://www.facebook.com/toneingeorgia
The Frog Spot is open all summer and into early Fall on Saturdays from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm and on Sundays 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. On site-attractions and amenities include: free bike repair, wi-fi, cell phone charging, spa water, premium drinks and snacks for purchase, beer and wine served at 2:00-10:00 pm Saturdays. Free live music, free LA River nature walks, educational programs, yoga & fitness classes by donation, a family and dog-friendly environment, outdoor games, Bocce Ball Court and more.
Learn more at: https://folar.org/river-experiences/frog-spot
Here are the Facebook Event Links:
Kudos on the LA River curriculum! We’ve personally met a few educators who have introduced it into their teaching schedule and love the program – as do their students!
Thank you again! Our River curriculum has been a critical link to educating children and engaging their parents in our mission to bring Angelenos to the LA River. Our organization is incredibly proud of the success it has earned in educating young people about our River — in the end, all of our advocacy work is aimed at bequeathing to them a restored and revitalized River.
What advice would you give someone that wants to get involved but doesn’t know where to start?
The best place to start is by visiting the River and interacting with our programming. Weekends are a great time to explore the River by visiting the Frog Spot and attending a nature walk, or even getting right down into the waterway by joining a kayak expedition.
Can you explain what the LA River Realm Guidelines are and how important they are for the future of the LA River?
FoLAR has dedicated its expertise and its knowledge of the community to deliver guidelines that ensure both equitable public access and ecological restoration along the River. Interested readers can learn more on the advocacy page of our website.
This year the city acquired the G2 Parcel which will bring an additional 42 acres into the public realm. FoLAR will continue to call for a River for the people by emphasizing the necessity of access for local community members and our responsibility to foster an ecosystem that includes our urban population and habitats for wildlife and nature along the River. The G2 Parcel has been described by many as the “crown jewel” of River revitalization. That is no exaggeration – but I would add that the G2 Parcel and its development represent the right time and place for us as Angelenos and Californians to demonstrate our commitment to public health and stewardship of our environment.
If we had a chance to take a sneak peak at your daily schedule what would an average day at FOLAR look like?
Every day is a new challenge and no two days are the same! As the executive director of FoLAR, my task is to balance our policy advocacy with our education program all the while raising financial support for FoLAR to continue its mission. That said, everyday my priority is to promote coexistence between our urban population and the wildlife and nature who rely on the LA River as their habitat.
What are some of the key partnerships FOLAR has made with community organizations and can you name a few?
FoLAR’s most important partnership is with the River community. Through decades of advocacy and public engagementFoLAR has amassed a membership list of over 35,000 Angelenos who the River to remain within reach of the people. FoLAR stands apart in that our central mission is to ensure equitable access to the LA River where our urban population can coexist with wildlife and nature. For readers interested in supporting FoLAR, please consider becoming a supporting member of our organization. Friends of the River enjoy benefits and discounts when they visit the Frog Spot, and remain in the know with upcoming River happenings and actions.
With that said, we are proud to collaborate with and support our city, state, and federal officials who have demonstrated leadership in the effort to revitalize the River. We work with partnership organizations to multiply our efficacy and expand our coalition of River advocates.
What inspires you?
In a word: California. The wild of its nature. The magic of its badlands. The power of its ocean. The nostalgia of its sunsets. The weird of its people. And the promise of endless possibility. To me, the River represents every facet of that possibility. Exposure to nature is important now more than ever. Beyond the public health benefits of access to open space and recreation areas, children and adults who connect with natural habitat are more likely to become future environmental stewards…a role that becomes increasingly crucial as we face a future of environmental uncertainty. The River represents our single largest untapped opportunity to connect communities throughout LA to the wild and to one another.
Get inspired with FoLAR and the LA River
Learn more here and become a friend 🙂 Folar.
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