For those of you who have never been to Echo Park Lake, now would be a great time. After two years of construction and $45 million of Proposition O money, the park reopened on June 15, 2013. Its popularity has become a reminder of how much this priceless slice of green space means to the downtown LA community.
The City of Los Angeles implemented a Clean Water Bond Program back in 2004, Proposition O, and Echo Park Lake, established as a park in 1892, was one of the selected projects for rehabilitation. After years of studying, planning, engineering and design, the goal to remove the need for millions of gallons of potable water that are used just to keep the 13 acre lake full (due to its leaking, man-made bottom) has now been achieved. On top of that, water supply, water quality, flood reduction, storm water re-use and recreation have all been improved. By improving the way we handle storm water in just one urban water system, we have begun to repair our damaged Los Angeles River watershed.
I am proud to say that I worked on this project from 2008-2012, while at AECOM. As sub-consultants to the engineering firm, Black&Veatch, we paid attention to the cultural, historical and natural aspects of the lake and park by saving as many trees as possible, maintaining important views, and by listening to the community’s desires and concerns. As a result, we brought back to lotus, completely redesigned the edges of and re-built the leaking lake, replaced deteriorating asphalt with porous concrete, designed a “green” system for treating storm water through the use of wetlands, maintained habitat, added a boardwalk, an overlook and a series of interpretive panels. On top of that, we made sure to maintain open space for the many activities that happen in this park every day.
Walking around the lake, for the first time in 2 years, was a truly gratifying experience. It was a Saturday afternoon and it was packed! It was a landscape architect’s dream to see urban hipsters playing catch, couples on dates, families having picnics and kids using the playground. I was amazed by how many people actually stopped to read the interpretive panels that we had so much fun designing. I am excited for Echo Park to continue on as the historically and culturally significant jewel of downtown LA for the next 120+ years!
Below is a rendering I did when imagining the new boardwalk. This structure now covers the original (still existing) storm water outfall, probably one of the ugliest pieces of infrastructure to be built within a park. The boardwalk has become a great place for visitors to appreciate the largest of the wetlands and to learn about its importance in storm water management. I hope you all get to see it all for yourselves!