This past weekend was the first without pedal boats at Echo Park Lake. Summer is over, and the lake is set to undergo a series of renovations that will likely shift the character of the surrounding park. There's been a lot of anxiety in the neighborhood over what the future holds for Echo Park Lake and the pedal boats, with people, myself included, often expressing dire visions of a gentry-friendly, sanitizied environment devoid of the sense of community and anything-goes attitude that has defined the park for years. What's going to happen?
Earlier this year the L.A. City Council approved an $84 million plan, funded by voter-passed Proposition O, that will drain and refill the lake and improve the drainage and irrigation systems, among other upgrades. Here's the information page. Councilman Eric Garcetti wrote about the boats and the project at his blog here and here, and mentioned the Prop O project back here.
It'll be interesting to see how this work affects what currently goes on at the lake and surrounding area: mainly, lots of lively unlicensed vending and second-hand goods swapping, the kind of low-level commercial activity that happens in unregulated spaces all over the world. Lately I've noticed increased late-night patrols by General Services police targeting the homeless who sleep near the boathouse. Richard Musquiz, a General Services police department captain, told me there's been more patrols because of break-in activity at the Echo Park Recreation Center on Bellevue Avenue, across the street from the lake. The center was also recently shut down for renovations, but I never see people working there. Musquiz said the lake is a focus of community policing efforts to tackle "illegal vending over the weekends, and any kind of criminal activity going on there" -- which I take to mean the crystal meth addicts conspicuously cruising for sex in the bathrooms.
Jenny Burman at Chicken Corner had this post last month describing what she'd like to see at the new, improved Echo Park Lake. Among her recommendations: "Removal of the chain-link at the southeast corner ... Willow trees." To that I'd lake to add the permanent opening of the bridge and island in the northeast bend. Wouldn't it be a great spot to throw a party?