Arroyo Seco bike path so green …


… that LA County’s Public Works Department has to spray it down with herbicides a couple of times a year.

Way back in 2006, I used to commute to work using the Arroyo Seco Bike Path. The path is a 2 mile stretch of smooth pavement located in the bed of the Arroyo Seco – a tributary to the Los Angeles River, which itself feeds into the Pacific Ocean. Every once in a while, I would have to stop riding to dismount and walk around work trucks parked on the path.

Sometimes, it was a pickup truck spraying grey paint over the tagging and graffiti that had gone up over the weekend. Other times, it was a truck with the seal of the “Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner Weights and Measures“. The Agricultural Commissioner trucks had large tanks full of green fluid. A guy, or guys, in brown body suits with face masks on would spray the banks of the Arroyo with this mystery fluid.

I stopped one morning and asked one of them what they were spraying.

“Herbicides,” he said.


Something didn’t seem right about that. The City of LA, and every local official I’ve met or heard talk, waxes on about “the environment” and their concern for “water quality” – yet here is a public agency spraying hundreds of gallons of herbicides along the banks of a river that many other public agencies were allegedly working to clean up.

I sent in some pictures I took to Steve Hymon, then a reporter at the LA Times with a regular column about stuff like this. He wrote an article, “For L.A.’s waterways, it’s not easy being green“, that was published on February 12, 2007.

He found out what the green stuff was:

“So what were they spraying?

A mixture of three common herbicides that go by the brand names Roundup, Gallery and Endurance, according to the county.”

These compounds are legal, though they do kill plants and ruin the ability of amphibians to reproduce. These chemicals (of course) can cause some nasty reactions when they are breathed in, or come into contact with human skin – mostly by irritating our skin and lungs.


Why spray these compounds up and down the banks of a river bike path?

The Arroyo Seco was turned into a cement drainage ditch back in the 1930’s. To keep the cement walls from collapsing, the County needs to keep burrowing rodents and plants out.

Why use an herbicide? According to folks I spoke with back in 2007 at the Agriculture Commissiner’s office, this was a cheap and effective way of keeping plants from ruining the walls of the Arroyo.

Why not just send in work crews?

“Too expensive,” my source said.


Some time after Steve Hymon’s article was printed, I was riding up the Arroyo Seco bike path when I saw a gondola container and a crew of people scooping up plants and cleaning the Arroyo by hand.

The LA County Public Works Department gets to have it both ways: “cost savings” by spraying with a toxic cocktail of herbicides with Agricultural Commissioner’s crews; and actual debris and plant removal with private contractors.

The jokes keep on coming with the Arroyo Seco bike path, I guess. We paved a riverbed, installed a bike path, and are forced to paint the walls green with toxic chemicals to save some greenbacks – then we hire private work crews to do the work the herbicides are supposed to be taking care of.

“The Arroyo Seco bike path is so green …”

It seems the Arroyo Seco bike path really is “green” – with chemicals, and with public dollars washing up and over it’s cement-lined banks.

Now that you know, we’re all in on the joke.

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  1. […] and redefinition. The Arroyo is also home to a team of herbicide spraying County workers, literally painting the walls of the Arroyo green with toxic chemicals to keep plants from cracking the walls of the flood […]

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