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Community News: Central

ECHO PARK : Neighbors Pool Their Efforts to Save Lake

January 16, 1994|IRIS YOKOI

A group of residents has formed a new community organization dedicated to the preservation of Echo Park Lake and improving the recreational activities and programs in the park that surrounds it.

United by a common love for the urban oasis, Friends of Echo Park Lake came together in December. Its second meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Central City Action Committee office near the lake, at 1160 Glendale Blvd.

The loosely knit, grass-roots group wants to develop educational programs so students can use the lake and park for ecology and art lessons. Among its other goals, the group hopes to return the "Lady of the Lake" statue, which has been in city storage since the lake's refurbishment a few years ago, to its former lakeside location.

Some members also want to lobby city Recreation and Parks officials to provide activities for teen-agers at the Echo Park Recreation Center across the street from the lake. Community activist Karen Jaeger, one of the founding members of Friends of Echo Park Lake, said she would specifically like to see co-ed sports teams and a supervised boxing program for youths.

"We each have our own issues," agreed founding member Gloria Sohacki, a seven-year resident of Laguna Avenue, which overlooks the lake.

Known locally as "The Duck Lady" who feeds the flocks daily as she walks to work at the Central City Action Committee youth agency, Sohacki said the group grew out of her desire to protect the lake's wildlife. Loud quacking that wakes her in the middle of the night and rumors of duck poaching, she said, have left her concerned for the waterfowl.

Sohacki said she also was motivated by the state Department of Fish and Game's practice of stocking the lake with catfish and trout for free community fishing. When a state biologist asked her to help promote the fishing opportunities, Sohacki contacted her neighbors and learned that many of them had concerns about the future of the lake. So she brought them together to form the group.

Sohacki said she also wants to get local youths involved in regularly checking the lake's water quality and monitoring the wildlife.

Increasing recreational activities for teen-agers is crucial because of their vulnerability to area gangs, Jaeger said. To this end, she plans to talk to police and city parks officials about starting a "safe, gang-neutral" boxing program at the recreation center at 1632 Bellevue Ave.

Currently, the city offers only baseball and basketball for elementary school-aged boys and dance classes for young girls at the center--activities that are "gender-stereotypic" as well as age-restrictive, Jaeger said.

But this is because the city has designated the Echo Park center as a facility for younger children, said Linda Davis, senior recreation director. The center is licensed to provide child care from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and is restricted from offering adult or co-ed programs, Davis said.

Other facilities and community organizations, including the Boys' and Girls' Club of Echo Park and area churches, provide activities for teen-agers, Davis said.

Jaeger acknowledged these programs, but said the number of youths far outnumbers the facilities.

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