Atwater Bridge Rises Over Troubled Water

By June 1, 2011

Currently, riders who board in Atwater Villages must ford the Los Angeles River to access Griffith Park trails. (Photo by Lynn Brown)

For 20 years, riders from the Paddock Riding Club in Atwater Village and other equestrians in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles have been trying to get a bridge built that would allow proper access to the trails of Griffith Park without having to ford the sometimes slick and treacherous L.A. River.

On April 7, a blustery day with unseasonably frigid winds, it looked like that day had finally arrived, as landscape architect Mia Lehrer, of Mia Lehrer and Associates, held a small meeting on the bank of the river at the Atwater crossing. “It is really wonderful to be working on an important master plan objective bridging the east and west side of river,” said Lehrer. “We can bridge communities physically, improve the environment and enliven our neighborhoods!”

Currently, the crossing consists only of a dirt ramp that leads down into the river, requiring Atwater equestrians to ride down into the wash and cross into Griffith Park at Tunnel #1. In winter, when the river is high, riders from the river’s east side (who include the Saddle and Sirloin Club and the LAPD Mounted Platoon) often risk a dangerous crossing through the traffic on Los Feliz Boulevard and over the Los Feliz bridge to enter the park.

The April meeting, though wind-whipped, held hope, a sentiment that was largely in the form of L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who called the meeting and personally attended. As with all things equestrian, LaBonge has been an enthusiastic supporter of the concept of building the bridge. Also present were City of Glendale Project Planning representatives, members of the Saddle and Sirloin and the LAPD Mounted Platoon, Paddock owner Dale Chavez, community activist Gene Gilbert (a member of the L.A. Equine Advisory Committee and the Atwater Homeowners Assn.), and members representing the anonymous donor and builder of the bridge.

After exiting the river, a dirt grade leads to Griffith Park. (Photo by Lynn Brown)

The proposed North Atwater Multi-Modal bridge is now undergoing both design and approval feasibility processes. Proponents are also awaiting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the L.A. River. Final approval of the proposed bridge plan is expected to take six months.

The donor, identified only as a man in his 80s who wishes to leave an iconic legacy to the City of Los Angeles, is anteing up about $3 million to see the project through to completion. He brings to it a sense of urgency, as he’s made known he’d like to see the bridge built in his lifetime. If all goes smoothly, it is estimated the bridge can be completed in three years.

As currently designed, the structure will be a 30-foot-wide suspension bridge. By contrast, the equestrian suspension bridge in Burbank is 10 feet wide. The design is intended to accommodate equestrians, pedestrians and bikers. Addressing concerns about having bikers and equestrians on the same bridge, the design features built-in dividers to segregate the traffic by type.

Entrances to the bridge will also be separated for each user group, as will the exits into the park, which will feed bikers directly onto the L.A. River bike path, while riders and hikers will be able to exit into Tunnel #1 and proceed onto the Griffith Park dirt trails.

There will be a series of public meetings to be announced to view the plans and to provide input.


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