Why I Love Echo Park Lake

Why I Love Echo Park Lake


From Summer 2011 to Spring 2013, it remained closed off to the public.

Alas, on Saturday June 15th, fences came down on the Lake from which Echo Park derives its name.  LA Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti, CD13 incumbent Mitch O’Farrell, Councilman Tom LaBonge, and heck — American Apparel and PETA — were among the throng of gatherers and the veritable who’s-who of Echo Park (the Echo Park Historical Society, the Echo Park Improvement Association), joined in the mass gathering of adults, toddlers, dogs — all huddled on Logan Street and Park Avenue for the opening ceremony festivities.

Garcetti + American Apparel

The announcements seemed endless and all started with “We’d also like to thank (insert name here)” and “one last speaker” only to be followed by a string of them.  I heard “Echo Park” repeated so much I wanted a hipster drinking game devoted to its mere utterance.  Tom LaBonge’s speech was brief, buoyant, and Red Bull-infused while Eric Garcetti pronounced a string of poignant words that stuck me.  He asked that we all become “stewards of the Lake” and help maintain its sustainability, beautification, and restoration.

After the bevy of thank you’s and mandatory applause, I was dying of anticipation.  Sure, the City has plans to open a cafe at the boathouse and Angelenos have yet to experience the full glory of fireworks at Lotus Festival 2014, but chain-link fences still tied the Park into an collective unit, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony barring entry.

I wanted to step foot in the Park of my childhood, kick off my boots, and walk around the iconic L.A. playpen of parks, joggers, dogs, and rec — all set against the overcast backdrop of the Downtown L.A. skyline.

Crowd gathers - Echo Park

After the ribbon-cutting, the festive yellow-headed dragon dancers lead the way in and the clouds actually did part!  Church bells rung out in song.  June gloom dissipated at around 11 a.m. and sunshine bathed upon the 2-year construction project.  Photo ops were taken on the green foot bridge by a cavalry of councilmen, engineers, and civic leaders, while the rest of us walked along the Park counter-clockwise in.

Lady of the Lake Statue Pedestrian Bridge

We walked in droves to the Lady of the Lake and felt the windward mist of the fountain on our faces, we took photos with iPhones and DSLRs unashamedly, and we ran into old friends along the inner path of the lake — all visually overwhelmed, and drunk on the excitement and novelty of being there first.

Instagram - bridge

Retaining walls, lake beds, wetland cells, netted lotuses, new boardwalks — Oh, MY! — all embraced the public.

Lotus + palm trees

CD13’s deputy director neatly summed up the Park’s improvements:

Key elements of the project include new lake edging, a clay liner to reduce water leaking through the lake bottom, in-lake re-circulation and aeration systems, wetland areas, water-wise landscaping, porous pavement walking paths, and a RECONSTRUCTED LOTUS BED which is currently blooming.

Personal boat tour Wetland

While much has already been documented on the physical components of the $45MM rehab ($40 million under budget), the 16 acre park (13 acres of which comprise the urban lake) — no one yet has discussed the empirical, undisputed benefits of Echo Park Lake.


Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Echo Park Lake

  1. The Make-Out Knoll
  2. Jogging
  3. Vistas
  4. Lotuses
  5. The Echo Park Corn Lady

1.  The Make-Out Knoll.  The knoll flanking the southeast side of the Lake is a make-out magnet.  It’s true.  This tradition may be as old as the 1868 former reservoir itself; Victorian couples were considered immodest with their public “spooning.”  From Belmont High teens to young professionals, this grassy, gentle upslope has been the location of many make-out sessions.  Make sure to keep it PG, though, you darling buds of May.

2.  Jogging.  There are 2 types of joggers at Echo Park Lake — hardcore runners who prefer the outer sidewalk track and those who prefer the bucolic jog inside.  There’s also fun soccer-playing opportunities on the north side of the Park.  Tip:  run counter-clockwise and come upon the sublime view of Downtown LA around the Glendale Blvd. bend.

3.  Vistas.  Major film movies, music videos, and photographers have descended upon Echo Park Lake for its vistas and urban setting — it’s its own main character.  Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, and Mi Vida Loca aside, the park continues to be a gathering hub for lone walks, Saturday picnics, and the like.  A new observation deck on the north, a boardwalk deck on the west (formerly the catch-and-release area), and a sprinkling of new benches accommodate vistas throughout.

4.  Lotuses.  Odysseus came upon these water lilies during his epic voyage home and it’s nice to know Angelenos don’t need to travel far to catch them in bloom.  These famous lotuses are currently covered under a black canopy of protective netting.  For the modern-day version of lotus-eaters, you’ll occasionally see faded teenagers as they wander about.

5.  The Echo Park Corn Lady.  She’s a myth under herself and symbolic of the food melting pot of LA.  Beyond her basket of steamed corn lies a complexity of flavors — mayonnaise, chili powder, lime, and parmesan cheese — which will win your taste buds.

To experience the joy and wonder of Echo Park Lake, there are only a modest list of rules.  I really wished the list included “No glamping.”

List of Rules

Netted lotus

Echo Park Lake is open daily from  5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. for your enjoyment.

Fountain + boathouse



About Jovelle Schaffer

Echo Park native and real estate agent who loves to cook, imbibe, and write about Los Angeles real estate, community, revitalization.

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