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Echo Park Lake Reopens After Cleanup, Relocation Of Unhoused Residents

ECHO PARK (CBSLA) — Echo Park Lake reopened to the public Wednesday, two months after being closed for repairs following the removal of about 200 unhoused residents.

"It looks amazing," one neighbor said. "It looks absolutely beautiful."

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who came under fire during the effort to place park residents into alternative housing, was among the first to walk into the park when it reopened at 3 p.m. He was quickly surrounded by a group of homeless advocates, some of whom chanted "Shame on Mitch," while others called for his resignation.

According to new signage at the park, no camping, lodging or storage is permitted and personal property left in the park after it closes "may be removed and impounded." The park hours are listed at 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

The reopening came after Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment crews removed a reported 35.7 tons of solid waste from the site. According to the city, the park underwent $600,000 worth of cleaning and repairs, that included replacing playground surfacing, upgrading restrooms and exterior lighting fixtures, replacing five water fountains, improving light poles, improving and painting the exterior of the lake's boathouse, improving the lake bridge, refurbishing the park's turf and improving irrigation.

Also back in service Wednesday were the park's popular swan pedal-boats, allowing people to venture out onto Echo Park Lake.

While O'Farrell and Mayor Eric Garcetti declared the operation a success, opponents of the park's clearing — including a coalition of faculty at USC, UCLA, UC Irvine and Occidental College — pointed out that most of the housing options offered to the residents of the park were temporary.

"People took to the streets," Jessica Mendez, one of the relocated residents, said. "I saw people huddled under cars. I saw people on the freeways."

Mendez said despite the temporary fencing around the park, the community would be back.

"Our community has roots here, and our community will still stand," she said.

Authorities said there would be 24/7 patrols at the park to ensure residents abide by the park's stated hours of operation and rules.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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