When Evelyn Aleman found out a few years ago that someone broke into her neighbor’s home, she joined an online community group and learned that some residents suspected the crime was tied to homeless tents set along the Los Angeles River near their West San Fernando Valley homes.

Every two weeks, Aleman and a group of volunteers walk along the river, wearing hats, rubber gloves and carrying a can of paint. They pick up trash, inspect broken street lights and paint over graffiti. They also compile and send reports to government agencies that oversee the bike path area, including the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, the Department of Public Works and the Los Angeles Police Department.

On a recent morning, a group of about 10 volunteers marched along the bike path in Reseda, carrying a can of paint as they passed a shopping cart dumped in the river.

“We feel like we can make a difference,” the 49-year-old Reseda resident said.

On a recent night, Aleman said her group reported 25 broken streetlights along the river between Corbin and Winnetka avenues in the west Valley.

In May, the city was awarded $43.6 million from the state for infrastructure improvements, including a grant to fund a continuous 51-mile path along the L.A. River from Canoga Park to Long Beach by 2025.

But Bob Akre, one of Aleman’s neighbors, and others worry that the extended bike path would woo more unsheltered people to live near the river.

Aleman decided to launch a community volunteer group called the L.A. River Watchers & Walkers to keep the 2.5-mile stretch of the river bike path between Vanalden to Mason avenues clean and safe.

Meanwhile, L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the area that includes communities in Reseda and Winnetka, said he hoped that linking the sections of the bike path along the river all the way to Long Beach would help keep the area safe.

“The disconnected sections that are not maintained at all tend to be a magnet for problems,” he said. “My hope is that if we can create more positive uses of it and more regular uses of it, the good will push out the bad.”

Blumenfield added that the group’s efforts helped him learn about some issues affecting communities adjacent to the river. About two years ago, he found out that the area had overgrown weeds. He eventually passed a motion to hire an independent contractor who now comes twice a week to cut the plants and clean up the trash on the stretch between Vanalden and Mason avenues.

“Other sections of the river don’t have that,” he said.

Source: www.dailynews.com