LAKE VIEW TERRACE — The long-delayed restoration of Hansen Dam Recreation Area--the site of a once-popular lake done in by sediment and neglect--is expected to be completed by midsummer, officials said Monday.
As a result, swimmers, anglers and boaters will be able to enjoy two new lakes, which will cost $15.8 million. They will be completed in June and are expected to open by late July or early August, pending approval by the Los Angeles County Health Department, officials said at a news conference.
"It's been a series of planning and replanning, but we're almost there," Edward Louie, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, said Monday. "This has already generated so much community interest, and I really do think it will be a success."
The swimming lake will have filtered, chlorinated water and a maximum depth of 5 feet. The boating and fishing lake will be up to 13 feet deep. In total, 42 acres within the 1,400-acre park were revamped to make way for the lakes, which were paid for with city, county and federal money.
The park was once a bustling area where families from throughout Los Angeles spent their summer weekends. It opened as a city-run recreation area in 1949, complete with a sandy beach and a boat ramp on a 120-acre lake, which was monitored by lifeguards from dawn to dusk.
But over the years water from Tujunga Wash poured silt into the lake, and the city had to pump in water during summer months to keep levels high enough for boating.
By 1982, the lake had turned to muck. It was never dredged, and had to be closed. Without it, the park fell into disrepair. Families stopped coming. Gangs, drug dealers and transients quickly moved in.
"This area was a drag on the surrounding communities, but now it will be an asset," Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Mission Hills), a longtime backer of the restoration, said Monday. "I think it's going to provide a boost to the area."
Hansen Dam Recreation Area already has an equestrian center and a sports complex, but local officials hope that the new lakes will spark a revitalization of the area. The project could draw increased business, housing and jobs to hundreds of acres surrounding the park.
"The more improvements we have to the Valley, the better," said Eddie J. Milligan, owner of the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center. "These new lakes will only protect the investment I made here."
Berman made restoration of the area a campaign promise during his initial run for Congress in the early 1980s. He sponsored legislation that expanded the role of the Army Corps of Engineers from flood control to include recreation projects.
It looked as though plans were coming together quickly, but the project nearly drowned more than once and was plagued with problems for more than a decade.
By the time it finally got back on track, the costs had jumped to more than $14 million. Construction of the lakes started in December 1997.
"As you all know, it's taken a long time to get to this point," Berman said. "Government doesn't always move quickly, but we do move."
Some area residents, however, have expressed concerns about the safety of the new facility.
"I know the lakes will give our children a safe haven to have fun, but I would like to see more security at the park for my peace of mind," said Marie Harris, former honorary mayor of Pacoima. "We want everyone to come to this place and be safe and make it a place where families can come together."
Berman said more rangers will patrol the park when the lakes open, but he didn't say how many.