LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Echo Park Lake will reopen to the public on May 26 after being cleared of homeless encampments and undergoing two months of repairs.
The park underwent $1.1 million in repairs since being closed in mid-March. The repairs included upgrades to the children's play area, public restrooms, boathouse, and lake bridge; painting and removal of graffiti, and landscaping work. Security cameras were also installed at the park.
Conditions at Echo Park had been deteriorating steadily, according to Los Angeles Councilman Mitch O'Farrell. There were four deaths at the park in 2020, including an 18-year-old woman who died from a drug overdose and a body recovered from the lake on New Year's Eve. After the park was cleared of homeless encampments and closed, more than 35 tons of solid waste and 723 pounds of biological waste – including 30 pounds of drug paraphernalia like needles and three firearms, various knives, and machetes – were removed from the park.
"As time went on, conditions at the park became increasingly unsafe for everyone – park visitors and park dwellers," O'Farrell said in a statement. "Echo Park Lake is a shared public space, and unhoused people were existing in inhumane conditions – which is why every single person experiencing homelessness in the park was offered transitional housing and services.
The park's closure had sparked several nights of protests by the homeless and advocates, nearly 200 of whom were arrested. According to O'Farrell, nearly 200 people who used to live at the park have been placed in transitional housing with access to regular meals, medical care, job opportunity placement, and the ability to keep their pets with them.
"What transpired at Echo Park Lake should not be acceptable to any of us. The situation at the lake was not 'commune-like,' and it was naïve and inaccurate to describe it as such," O'Farrell said in his statement. "It was unsafe, unhealthy, inhumane, and deadly – with multiple fatalities, widespread drug usage, and criminal activity, including reports of sexual assaults."
O'Farrell says that the city will work to keep the reopened park safe, clean, accessible and secure for all who wish to use the space.
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