The lotus, the lake and the people are back at Echo Park Lake (Photos)

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Crowds flocked to Echo Park Lake for its reopening on June 15, 2013.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

A member of the Echo Park Yacht Club who goes by the name Ssippi controls a model sail boat in Echo Park Lake on June 15, 2013.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Echo Park Yacht Club member Nick Onassis demonstrates how to control a model sailboat.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Tom Ryan and his daughter Molly take a swim in Echo Park Lake on June 15, 2013. “I love the water and I love my daughter,” he said.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

A park patron reads about the Echo Park Lake wetlands on June 15, 2013.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Christine McCleery spins her daughter Clementine on playground equipment at Echo Park Lake on June 15, 2013.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Mirna Guardado makes pupusas near the entrance of Echo Park Lake.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Noor Jeevanjee and her family have a picnic near the water at Echo Park Lake.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

The Echo Park Yacht Club sails model boats in Echo Park Lake on June 15, 2013.

Echo Park Lake open

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Park patrons take pictures of the lotus on the lake at Saturday's grand re-opening of Echo Park Lake, after two years of habitat restoration.

Echo Park Lake open

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Echo Park Lake reopened to the public Saturday after being closed and fenced off for two years as construction crews drained the lake and replanted native plants.

Echo Park Lake open

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

More than 360 new lotus flowers were planted in Echo Park Lake as part of a two-year habitat rehabilitation project that cost $45 million.

Echo Park Lake open

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Park patrons lean in to get a better look at the blossoming lotus plants floating on the newly opened Echo Park Lake.

Echo Park Lake Garcetti Tour

Gary Leonard

Then L.A. councilman and now Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti and staffers tour Echo Park Lake with KPCC's Kevin Ferguson in 2011.

Echo Park Lake Boathouse

Gary Leonard

The Echo Park Lake boathouse, mid-renovation.

Empty Echo Park Lake

Gary Leonard

Echo Park Lake, mid-renovation

Echo Park Lake... Empty

KPCC

Echo Park Lake mid-renovation.

Echo Park Lake

Todd Johnson/KPCC

After a two-year and $45-million rehabilitation, Echo Park Lake will reopen on June 15, 2013.


No one expected the floating lotus plants to bloom Saturday on the grand re-opening of Echo Park Lake, but their pink and white petals surprised the crowd.

The lotus flowers weren’t due for another six months.

“We’ve been really missing watching the artists and photographers taking pictures and painting the lotus every year,” said Echo Park resident Candice Cain.

Echo Park Lake reopened Saturday after a two year habitat restoration that cost $45 million. It which included draining the lake, planting 376 new lotus plants, primping walking paths with native plants and restoring the fountains, boat house and the Lady of the Lake statue

Echo Park Lake was first dug in the 1860s as a drinking water reservoir. It eventually turned into a detention basin for storm water drainage.

Bacteria, trash and urban runoff polluted Echo Park Lake. Fish died, the lotus died. Grime and crime grew, recalled Alex Mesa, who lives across the street from the park.  

“It was dirty. It wasn’t well kept. It smelled,” Mesa said. “It was what it was. It’s our park and we need to take care of it.” 

In 2004, voters passed Proposition O to pay for the renovations, which were projected at $64. 7 million. Conservationists relocated waterfowl, turtles and fish to other city parks to prepare for the renovation. Even the park’s beloved and famous brown goose “Maria” (or “Mario”) was moved to the L.A. Zoo.

Construction began in 2011.

Neighbors, especially those who live closest to the park, said the construction noise and parking pained them. For them, the renovation felt much longer than two years, but said the wait was well worth it.

“For two years you were in waiting to see what would happen,” said Jon Kirk Mukri, the general manager for L.A.'s recreation and parks department. “And when you look at it, you’re not going to see a lot, because what was done was under the water.”

Mukri said most of the rehabilitation was focused on the lake. New clay lining was added to keep the water from seeping out. Underground storm water diversion pipes and screening devices were installed to keep trash from flowing into the lake.

But to the hundreds of people who poured into the park through a small fence opening Saturday after the ribbon-cutting, it was a whole new site for them.

“It looks way more modern and exciting,” said young Echo Park resident Hannah Lee Cain.

People bent over to take close-up pictures of the blooming lotus on the water. Kids passed a soccer park in the open grass. Families laid out blankets in front of the fountains shooting water straight up toward the high-rise palm trees.

Many were glad to see the lotus, a long-time loved characteristic of Echo Park Lake return and more than there ever were before.

“It’s a re-makeover,” said Echo Park native Ivan Guzman “Echo Park really got hooked up.”

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