Echo Park Lake is slated to reopen to the public next Wednesday after a two-month closure for repairs that followed the city’s contentious decision to remove homeless people living there.
The park, which has been blocked off since the end of March, will officially reopen at 3 p.m. May 26, according to a statement from Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office.
O’Farrell, who represents the Echo Park area, spearheaded efforts to remove the encampment that had grown along the lake over the past year. He says nearly 200 people who had been living at the park were provided transitional housing.
More than 180 protesters were arrested, and several members of the news media and legal observers were detained, after police in riot gear were called in to facilitate the park’s clearing.
The councilmember said residents’ removal was necessary to repair what he has described as hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
During the cleanup process, city sanitation workers removed more than 35 tons of solid waste, 723 pounds of biological waste including urine and feces, and 30 pounds of drug paraphernalia such as hypodermic needles, according to O’Farrell’s office.
Three guns and several knives and machetes were also recovered, officials said.
“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.”
One man who’d been living at the park said he understood the need to clean it up, but they needed more time to leave than they were given. Robert “Bobby” Rodriguez, 44, told the Associated Press in March that an organization had set him up in a room in a downtown luxury hotel, but he left immediately because of tight restrictions.
“It’s just the exact opposite of being outside, from one extreme to the next, and I didn’t last,” he said.
The encampment has been the site of drug overdoses, assaults and shootings, with four deaths in the park in 2020, according to a statement from O’Farrell’s office.
The city has approved up to $1.1 million toward improvements, including for upgrades to the children’s play area, bathroom, boathouse and lake bridge. O’Farrell’s office says the money will also funds the installation of additional security cameras.
“When Echo Park Lake reopens, the City will ensure that it remains safe, clean, accessible, and secure for all who wish to use this shared public space,” O’Farrell said. “The community can count on that.”