Echo Park Lake Is About to Get Drained Into an Empty, Stinking Mud Flat

The lake was last drained in 1984. Yes, it was awful.
The lake was last drained in 1984. Yes, it was awful.
The Eastsider via Picasa

For the new wave of borderline-eastside gentry who weren't around to see Echo Park Lake in a surly state of "stinking mud flat" in 1984 (or 1902, 1906, 1919, 1922, 1932 or 1946):

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but your Central Park in SoCal fantasy is about to get, very literally, drained into one giant crater of caked dirt. The $64 million city project was announced at the end of last year, and -- after some delays -- is well on its way to completion. As of this fine Labor Day Weekend, Eastsider LA has detected a "bathtub-like ring" ...

... encircling the banks of the 14-acre, 150-year-old reservoir.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works confirms that "it's going to be completely drained" by the time city workers are done dumping it into the Pacific at 1 million gallons of water per day. The Eastsider says the lake will be dry in about a month.

And it's going to affect a lot more than the bay-window viewage of all that hipster housing along Echo Park Avenue. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that the hippest goose in all the land -- Maria, of OK Go music video fame -- was in danger of losing her home during the renovations.

As engineers prepare to start the $65 million rehabilitation project, they don't have a plan for local birds, many of whom [Echo Park retiree Dominic Ehrler, or Maria's self-proclaimed "best friend"] has named: "Coco," "the Gucci Twins," the "Gang of Four."

But Maria is a top priority now, say people involved in the discussions. She might end up at MacArthur Park Lake, a few miles away. On Thursday, a zoo biologist examined her and determined she'd be fit to stay and socialize with construction workers to satisfy her need for human contact.

Public Works officials argue that the lake is long overdue for a refilling, and that Maria (along with dozens of other, less paparazzied geese and ducks who live there, and flocks of herons who pass through) will be worse off without it.

If the 200 possibly herpes-infested carp that floated up dead in May 2010 are any indication of the State of the Water, we'd tend to support that vision. L.A.'s favorite puddle has been looking damned murky lately, and we can't remember the last time we happened upon a floating lotus. But the path to rehab won't be pretty. From a brief Eastsider LA history of drainings past:

The fences are up and soon Echo Park Lake will drain out to the Pacific Ocean leaving behind "a stinking mud flat, unsightly and foul" with "the stench and foul odors ... a menace to the health of the city." Or at least that's how the L.A. Times described the situation when the lake was partially drained in 1902.

Most amusingly, during the lake's 1919 cleaning, a 16-year-old girl fell into the ooze while trying to celebrate her goldfish-themed birthday party by fishing in the quicksand. But the 1984 drain wins for epicness:

One bottle collector found an old Coca Cola bottle, "an hour-glass shaped vessel inscribed with the words "New Grape." They also found shopping carts, garbage cans, and "a virtual Himalaya of waterlogged Kleenex." A group of boys were trapped in the muck and rescued by the fire department.

Ha! This 21st-century stench might just be worth observing what the last 25 years have escorted to the bottom of the lake. And here's what Public Works is promising, by the end of this thing:

Complete with (1) observation deck, (2) "rain gardens" and (3) "new lotus plants like those that historically thrived in the lake." Sweet. But you might want to hold your nose 'til then.


Sponsor Content


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >