Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Echo Park Lake, Urban Oasis

When you think of L.A., I'm sure that the first images that come to mind are of tall buildings, movie stars, and traffic.  However, one doesn't have to leave the City of Los Angeles to enjoy a little green space.

Echo Park Lake offers grassy picnic areas, a playground, and recreation... all with a beautiful view of Downtown Los Angeles.

Echo Park

On a warm Saturday afternoon in October, I managed to pull myself away from my weekend ritual of watching college football to go outside and enjoy the sunshine (but only after the Clemson game, of course). As per usual in Los Angeles, the first issue I had getting to Echo Park was traffic, and the second, much greater issue was parking. After circling Echo Park Lake a few times, I managed to find a vacant spot next to the curb just big enough to squeeze my compact car into.



Echo Park

Admittedly, half of the reason that I chose Echo Park was for the people-watching. I had heard that the lake was a hang-out spot for the area's teenage hipsters.  And I definitely observed a great bit of hipster fashion... but I was too shy to take any creeper photos, so you'll have to go check out the local dress for yourself.

Echo Park

Historically, Echo Park Lake actually functioned as a reservoir, storing water from the overflowing Los Angeles River. 33 acres around the reservoir were purchased by Thomas Kelley in 1891, and the city began landscaping a park which opened to the public in 1895.  Echo Park Lake became citywide attraction by the 1920s, and the surrounding area grew with the construction around Sunset Boulevard.  However, the Echo Park community began to decline in the 1950s with the emergence of gangs who marked their territory with graffiti.

In the early 1980s, Angelino activists fought for the approval of the Historical Preservation Overlay Zone to protect homes in the Echo Park area.  By 1995, several other civic groups began to focus on restoring and maintaining Echo Park Lake which was declared a City of Los Angeles Historic Monument in 2006.

Echo Park

The Lady of the Lake was sculpted by Ada Mae Sharpless for Echo Park Lake in 1934. The statue was removed from the park in 1986 after it was damaged by vandals. It was later restored and returned to public view in 1999.

Echo Park

The recently (2013) restored Echo Park Lake boathouse now hosts the restaurant, Square One at the Boathouse, as well as non-motorized boat rentals.

Echo Park

Paddle boat rentals are available daily (closed Christmas and Thanksgiving) from 9 AM to half an hour before sunset (weather permitting).  $10 per adult, $5 per child for an hour rental (cash only).  Canoe rentals are available for the same rates on weekends.

Romantic gondola rides for two last half an hour and are available for $50 first-come-first-serve, or $75 for a reservation on Saturdays and Sundays only.

Echo Park

Echo Park

In addition to concessions at the boathouse, there were many local vendors selling inexpensive drinks and snacks along the walking path. So if you don't have time to pack a picnic, you won't go hungry.

Echo Park

I wasn't sure what state I was going to find Echo Park Lake in, but during my visit, I was pretty impressed. The park felt like a clean and safe environment, and children and adults alike looked to be enjoying themselves. It's a great location for both a family outing or a romantic city date. Thanks to activist groups which pursued the restoration of Echo Park Lake, the city park can once again be considered an "Inner-City Oasis".  It's a great place to spend an afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the city without actually leaving the urban jungle.

Echo Park Lake is located at 751 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026. For more information, visit the community blog, Echo Park Now, or the Echo Park Historical Society's website, Historic Echo Park.

Join me for my destination series, 31 Days of Los Angeles for more Southern California fun!