Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In Anticipation of the Lake Reopening

Posted on Echo Park-Silver Lake Patch on May 18, 2013

The bridge when it was painted red Lotus blooms Lotus blooms
Yoon Jung and I on our first date at the 2005 Lotus Festival City skyline Gansos y gansitos
Lotus blooms Lotus blooms
Photos by Robert D. Skeels,

The June 15, 2013 reopening of the park can't come soon enough after the seemingly endless rehabilitation.

My long fondness and fascination with our intriguing body of water goes back decades. On the weekends during the mid nineteen eighties and early nineties I used to ride my VFR to Lago de Echo Parque to escape the city just north of Los Angeles proper. The soothing sound of Spanish speakers, the city skyline, the ubiquitous waterfowl, and the lotus beds were all important sources of solace.

When I was finally able to move to Echo Park in 1994, I was overjoyed that the lake was only a few minutes away. The park was a nearly daily destination, including weekend basketball pickup games on the other side of Bellevue. In those years I began teaching Catechism at St. Teresa's, became fully immersed in the immigrant rights movement, and started researching and writing about the privatization of our public school system.

The lotus beds in full bloom were always harbingers of summer. Attendance at each day of the Lotus Festival was a given. A cultural celebration, the festivals reflected the diversity of the community. In fact, I took Yoon Jung to the 2005 Festival for our first date. We married 2008, and bought our house in Historic Filipinotown right before they drained the lake.

A lot has changed in the past twenty years, and as a transplant myself, it's not my place to remind lifelong residents of those changes. However, the hardest thing for me witness was the slow death of the lotus beds. It felt like the community was loosing one more thing that gave it its unique character. I remember commenting on a LA Times article discussing the issue. Bitter over the rapid changes in the neighborhood that included the park being overrun by fixie bikes and impromptu skinny-jean croquet matches, I wrote something to the effect that the lotus were dying off in direct proportion to the gentrification.

The years without the lotus beds were depressing. While there was some confort in the announcement that the rehabilitation would restore the aquatic plants, the lengthy time frame was daunting. Finally the lake will be returned to the community for all of us to enjoy — even fixie bike riders.

Yoon Jung and I still live within walking distance of the parque, albeit a bit longer walk than before. We can't wait for the reopening, and in anticipation are posting a few old photos.


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