A $45 Million Walk Around “Lotus Lake”
So what does $45 million get you these days? Well, if the two-year renovation of Echo Park Lake is any indication, that heavy chunk of change gets you a beautiful place to spend a lazy Sunday (or any day of the week for that matter) morning.
In 2013 (a later update follows), Tracy and I headed out on a very warm Sunday morning to this historic park, famed for its lake’s beautiful beds of lotus flowers, which had just opened the previous day after an extensive facelift.
The lake was originally built in the 1860s as a reservoir for drinking water and became an icon for people in the city of Los Angeles. In the late 1880s a carriage maker and real estate developer, Thomas Kelly, and other investors purchased land that included what is now Echo Park Lake. Kelly is said to have founded Echo Park in 1892. Originally named Edendale, it supposedly got the name Echo Park when builders noted that their voices echoed off the canyon.
Starting in 1909, silent movie studios began coming to Echo Park Lake. Movies with stars like Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges and Gloria Swanson were shot in converted cottages and barns in the area.
However, in 2006, Echo Park Lake was designated as an impaired body of water due to all the bacteria and trash that had washed into the reservoir over the years. The pollution was choking and eventually killing the lake’s lotus plants, which stopped blooming.
But on Saturday, June 15, following that two-year, $45 million renovation project (photo above from internet), the park was rededicated. Once again, this beautiful park is open for joggers, people walking their dogs, families with kids and anyone who just wants to enjoy the great outdoors even though you’re in the city.
One huge concern during the renovation was that the famed lotus flower beds were gone forever, but thanks to an environmentally -minded “thief” they are back and thriving in the lake (although they are under netting for the next year to protect them from dive bombing birds).
In 2005, horticulturalist Randy McDonald violated the city’s municipal code by pilfering a cutting from one of the lotus plants on the lake. When the city began planning to drain and restore Echo Park Lake, the landscape architect of the project found out about McDonald’s secret. McDonald fessed up to stealing the cutting, and soon afterward he discovered that sometimes crime REALLY does pay. There was talk of bringing in other species from other countries, but eventually McDonald ended up selling 376 lotus plants he had cultivated in exchange for $30,000.
The walk around the lake ( a little less than a mile) is beautiful, with views of the Los Angeles skyline in the background, and a glimpse of one of the Echo Park neighborhood’s numerous outdoor staircases that keep visitors and residents in shape (or put them into immediate cardiac arrest).
It’s a great place to walk your dogs, and there are other species around, too.
If you glance away from the lake, the foliage isn’t too bad there either.
The famed Old Bridge has also had some work done on it, but it will only be open on special occasions to get over to the island.
Love the bridge!
Also back in its original spot is Echo Park’s famous statue, the Lady Of The Lake. Lady Of The Lake is a 1930s era Art-Deco style statue and an icon of Echo Park Lake. It was removed during the 1980s when it was placed in a nearby storage yard after being heavily damaged by vandals. After the Lady of the Lake was restored in the late 1990s, the statue had to be located to a less prominent spot on the east side of the lake since a pump house had taken its place.
(Update) Tracy and I have returned often (these photos are from June 2014), and the lotus flowers were in full color…
…and beautiful to behold.
People were put on paddle boats…
…and the restaurant was hopping.
Our corgis also had a blast.
Each July, there is a Lotus Festival. We’ll look forward to the one in 2015.
The neighborhood of Echo Park has sort of deteriorated throughout the years, but hopefully this recent renovation will bring it back to life. Bring your dog for a walk or your kids for a picnic (or your kids for a walk and your dogs for a picnic).
Echo Park Lake
751 Echo Park Lake (a short distance from the end of the 2 Freeway)
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Hours: 5:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Parking: Only a few spots at the park, but there is street parking