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Echo Park Lake is almost back

After a two-year restoration, the landmark is scheduled to reopen June 15.

May 11, 2013|Marisa Gerber

After its two-year, $45-million makeover, Echo Park Lake will soon shed the green tarp-covered fence that lines its circumference, revealing to the public a similar-but-spruced-up version of the neighborhood's landmark.

"Welcome to 29 acres of paradise," L.A. City Engineer Gary Moore said at a news conference Friday, where officials announced the lake would reopen June 15.

Before it was refilled and restocked with plants, the lake was completely drained and cleaned. During the cleanup, Moore said, workers found two guns, one toilet, 20 Frisbees and a pay telephone.

But, in a revelation that belied local lore, no bodies were discovered.

"Echo Park Lake had become toxic," Moore said. "It was not a place that you wanted to be."

Now, thanks to two years of work and $45 million -- a figure Moore called "way under budget" -- that's changed.

City Councilwoman Jan Perry smiled Friday as she stood near the mist of the lake's fountains, which because of their proximity looked twice the size of downtown's behemoth U.S. Bank building.

"Nearly a decade later, we are reaping the incredible benefits of this investment," Perry said of the Proposition O bond money that funded the restoration of Echo Park Lake.

State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) called the lake a reflection of the neighborhood.

"Echo Park Lake is a beautiful mosaic, it's a rich tapestry of the different ethnicities that live and work in Echo Park," he said.

To Marta Cabret, who spent the morning visiting a friend in Echo Park, the park's renovation is "a start-over button" of sorts for the neighborhood.

"Everyone can come out and meet each other again," she said, peering at the lake from outside the fence.

A few minutes later, Stephanie Hoogland, 28, took a break from her jog outside the fenced-off perimeter to check out the progress.

"It looks a lot different -- a lot better," said Hoogland, who for four years has lived on a hill above the lake.

"Before I wasn't too amped to go down here at night."

Now, she said, she plans to spend evenings relaxing on the grass.

Back inside the partition, project manager Julie Allen stood near the Lady of the Lake statue, which was returned to its original location.

She spotted two Canada geese interlocking necks and smiled.

"It's mating season," she said.

A few minutes earlier, L.A. mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti escaped the media swarm for a moment and watched a clump of water lilies float across the water's surface.

"I dreamed of this day for a long time," he said.

As the media and most of the city employees walked back to their cars, a man pushing a cart filled with chicharrones de harina -- fried flour snacks -- stopped to peer through a tear in the green tarp.

He squinted, looked at the fountains and smiled.

"Que a gusto," he said. "How nice."

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marisa.gerber@latimes.com

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