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Echo Park Lake thrives five years after it was cleaned up

By BARRY LANK

Echo Park   — It’s a hot day, but it doesn’t matter. The picnic tables are full on a Saturday afternoon – with older men slapping down cards and families playing bingo. A snack stand nearby sells elote straight off the grill. Closer to the water, two women take glamor shots of each other near a lush patch of floating plants, and a small girl pushes an even smaller girl on a hammock – pushes her hard enough to make turn it into a carnival ride.

This is Echo Park Lake five years after reopening from a multi-million-dollar clean-up. The park had been closed from July 2011 until June 2013. The Department of Public Works put in new pathways, new informational signs, and new wetlands. But the primary clean-up was the lake itself – which was drained, deepened and cleaned out for better water quality.

Not everything is as pristine as on that opening day five years ago.  Homeless encampments dot portions of the surrounding park. Tagging has to be frequently cleaned up and rats scamper at sundown. But, judging from the throngs of weekend visitors who crowd the pathways,  line up for the new swan boats and gaze at colorful water lilies and lotus blooms, Echo Park Lake remains a hit with the public five years after its makeover.

“It’s out-of-control amazing,” said Darrell Kunitomi, who said he’s been coming to the lake since at least the late 1950s. “Water is cleaner than ever, getting filtered of large stuff, aerated more than ever.”

Kunitomi, 65, is a seasoned angler who fished at the lake when he was growing up. “Today it is chock-full of fish, eight species worth catching I can count, and extremely healthy specimens,” he said. “Bass, bluegills, sunfish, tilapia, carp, catfish, koi, and trout (when stocked).”

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A newcomer, Matt Brenneman, started coming to the lake only three year ago but shares Kunitomi’s views. Brenneman now lives in Filipinotown, partly because it’s only about a 15 minute walk to the lake.

“It’s honestly one of my favorite places in L.A.,” Brenneman said. “Like two months ago, my parents came to visit me from Florida just for a day. In that one day that I had to show them around, I still made sure to bring them out to Echo Park Lake. It might be the best place in L.A. that I know of to people-watch and see a huge mix of cultures in one small area.”

As for the homeless who still occupy parts of the park and have lived – on-and-off – out of cars parked nearby, Brenneman said, “There’s always going to be a few homeless people there, but not as many as you’d expect.”

“I have noticed that if I stick around late at night, a larger percentage of the people there tend to be homeless,” Brenneman said. “But even in that case, you’ll still see men and women running around the lake at 9 or even 10 p.m.”

8 comments

  1. Next Westlake!! It’s a disgrace that such a beautiful neighborhood and park are absolutely covered in filth and neglected.

    Thanks for nothing Gil Cedillo!

  2. The park and the lake look great. The bathrooms are a disgrace, broken door handles, filthy. People need a safe clean place to go.

  3. I am always saddened by the amount of trash that seems to find its way into the water. Use the trash cans people, and get kids to do the same. It completely spoils the ecology of the lake and surround!!

  4. I’ve lived near Echo Lake for decades. It’s so wonderful to see the park full of people on a nice day! For so long it was neglected. The only thing that sucks is those pesky ice cream trucks – with their 5-note songs playing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over for hours. I asked one vendor to turn her music down and she told me to “eff off”. I know people feel sentimental about this, but c’mon. Can’t they play it 5 minutes and stop? OK. I’m ready for my pushback.

  5. Thanks, glad to see our beautiful lake and park described well and celebrated — yeah the restrooms are a trial.

    My beef is the bike and scooter riders, you’re not supposed to ride on the walkways, people. GET OFF THE BIKE.

    I have personally witnessed several near collisions, only a matter of time before some child is hurt badly.

  6. Have been going to Echo since the sixties…always to fish, my kids now my grandkids learned to fish there now I hear that they want to prohibit fishing…makes no sense Bass, Catfish, Trout when stocked, Bluegill and they want to not allow fishing…does anybody know within city parks what the public can benefit from obviously “Not”…make the park for everyone not just the walkers…

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