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Echo Park Lake To Reopen With Eco-Friendly Improvements

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Echo Park Lake will finally reopen after its two-year, $45 million renovation on June 15. The fence will come down and the neighborhood landmark, which was originally built as a drinking water reservoir in the 1860s, will be back in action and open to the public.

Echo Park Lake was identified as an impaired body of water in 2006, and the city allocated $64.7 million dollars to fund its cleanup and revitalization. The lake was closed off and drained in the summer of 2011. The rehabilitation project tackled Echo Park Lake not only as a recreational body of water, but also as an important part of the Los Angeles ecosystem.

Although Echo Park Lake is man-made, it is part of the local watershed. "It is the low point in the 770-acre Echo Park/Silver Lake watershed, but it also feeds into the L.A. River on its downstream side," said Julie Allen, Echo Park Lake Rehabilitation Project Manager.

The lake primarily acts as a detention basin for stormwater. "When extra stormwater comes in, it flows out of the lake into the LA River," said Allen.

The once murky waters of Echo Park Lake will be much cleaner thanks to several water quality improvement measures, including wetlands planted in the basin of the lake, a new and more watertight liner, a recirculation system, an aeration system, and hydrodynamic separators that treat the water before it enters the lake. Trash will still have to be manually removed, but the previously mentioned improvements should maintain the water quality in the lake for years to come.

The park surrounding the lake has also been spruced up significantly, with a new observation deck, walking path, informational signs, and landscaping. The boathouse at the lake has been renovated, and the City Department of Parks and Recreation is pursuing a vendor for the concession stand and the paddleboat rentals.

The lake's iconic lotus beds are back, as well. After a mysterious die-off in 2008, the flowers are back and blooming a year ahead of schedule. The Lotus Festival, however, will not return to the park for another year. The whole park received new sod and landscaping that can handle normal use but is still too fragile to host a festival.

The Lady of the Lake statue came back to the park in May, but not to the place where most Echo Park residents might expect to find her. The statue, formally known as Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles, was built in the 1930s and originally sat facing away from the lake on its northern side. The statue was put into storage in the 1980s and replaced with a pump station. The statue was later installed facing the water on the east side of the lake. The Lady of the Lake is now back in her original spot.

Some of the birds that were relocated from Echo Park Lake in early 2012 are returning to the lake. "We're not bringing any birds back that can't fly," said Allen, "but we do have waterfowl, hawks, and other birds that are coming back to the lake on their own."

Echo Park Lake will be open to the public on June 15. A community event tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. will celebrate the lake's reopening, but details are currently to be determined.

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