If you walk the groomed perimeter of its lotus adorned waters, you will notice many striking things about the newly restored Echo Park Lake. Such things, like the boathouse featuring scrumptious eats by Square One Dining, that up until its June, 2013 reopening, may have seemed improbable, foreign even compared to its more recent and infamous embodiment as a polluted cesspool and hub to sketchy, gang related riffraff.
Today’s incarnation, however, exists as the enduring emblem its founders would have likely hoped it to be — an epicenter of Los Angeles history and culture available for the enjoyment of the people. With the reification of beloved pastimes and aesthetics, such as paddleboat rides and an ode to 1920s Spanish-style architecture, the lake, its surrounding park and boathouse represent this timeless vision and, of course, much more.
Weekends especially welcome a colorful myriad of families, joggers, rambunctious geese, ducks and swans and your obligatory picnicking young hipsters braiding each others’ hair and tossing the occasional frisbee. Local vendors relieve hot summer days with stands of ice cream or fresh fruit like coconuts and mango with chilli and lime. There are even art students, scattered in pastoral picturesqueness amongst the grass and at the water’s edge — easel, canvas, paint and all — that beg the question, Are we really in Los Angeles?
Beyond the obvious additions its newfound presence brings — a beautiful landscape in the heart of the city, free outdoor wifi, a boost in local economy — there is an echo to something greater, perpetual and perhaps almost forgotten. In this time and place of steadfast, technological advancement, cars as the alienating means of transport and rapid gentrification, the humble existence of this now declared Cultural Historic Monument is a nostalgic adage to times where people walked and children played outside. A time when we picnicked and talked to each other under the sun instead of on phones. Where a little piece of something historic is preserved and honored in its rightful integrity for the neighborhood and its many visitors to enjoy together. All this, under the symbolic stewardship of the Lady of the Lake, is what makes Echo Park, well, uncannily Echo Park.