On Monday, the national holiday, I went walking at Echo Park Lake with my friends Jennifer Chao, who is new to Los Angeles, and Adrienne Crew, who writes the blog LABrainTerrain and also contributes to LAObserved, where my work appears as well. Adrienne and I both have lived in the neighborhood for years, and we became de facto tour guides--or in my case a limited-skills bird guide--to Jen, who moved here a few months ago, though it was not the first time she’d been to our neighborhood’s “historic” lake.
We all met at the boathouse and started around the lake clockwise. We’d only walked a few feet when we ran into Dave Foster, the Parks and Rec manager of the lake, who was fishing on his day off. He had a lure that looked like a real trout; the lake is stocked with real trout. His aim was to hook one of the legendary huge bass that have survived in the murky water for many years. He said he would simply take a picture of the fish and then throw it back, but he also acknowledged that the fish didn’t live as long as it had without learning to spot a fake fish. Still, Dave was giving it his best shot, enjoying the lake on a day when he wasn’t being paid to. He loves his job.
It’s winter (though of course it didn’t feel like it on Monday), and so the wild ducks are visiting, which they do each year. We saw ruddy ducks, American widgeons, ringnecks. They napped on the water. Some mallards and domestic ducks, year-round residents at the lake, napped on grass at the water’s edge. There were the many geese, of course, though I didn’t spot Maria the famous goose of Echo Park Lake. Cormorants sat out at the fountain, which for some reason was not operating. In a tall evergreen tree on the island, three great blue herons were visible. Dave Foster said they soon will be raising chicks in nests that they have been re-using for at least a couple of years. He said it gets pretty noisy in the treetops, after the chicks hatch.
So many animals live at Echo Park Lake, and it’s still unclear how they will be handled, if at all, when the lake is closed and the water drained in the Prop O, bond-approved revamping that is set to start this year. Some EP residents have been pushing for a pond, to give the residents of the lake a place to live--it couldn’t possibly accommodate all of the critters, but it would help some. This option has been proposed and re-proposed, and it’s still unclear whether it will be adopted. One thing that’s clear is that engineers will prefer simply to drain the lake dry and not worry about the animals. It's the year-round residents I worry about most.
Jen asked what would happen to the turtles and fish, like the bass for which Dave Foster was angling. Not to mention the birds. No one knows, really, though there is talk of a turtle adoption effort, and one official, quoted here in Patch (see link below), said something to the effect of, oh the birds will just go to Silver Lake or the river, which is something like saying a longtime domestic cat can just hunt for its own food. A lot of the ducks and geese are domestic animals that were dumped and have extremely limited skills when it comes to travel. They could find themselves homeless, or dead (how does a fish manage homelessness?). Or they could be protected by neighborhood residents who show up for public advisory meetings, contact their elected representatives, or do whatever they can to influence the way the transformation of the lake is handled. Because passion is power, and it is our lake, too.