With the sun out, the reflection of the blue sky turning the dirty water of the lake an acceptable shade of aqua, and a fair number of young families feeding the ducks at lake’s edge, for a few hours today, Echo Park was a place I would actually consider spending some time.
Living a block from the park, it’s easy to take a quick jaunt around the lake and I frequently do, but I have never, and rarely ever even consider stopping to enjoy the place. Truth be told, there isn’t that much to enjoy. That’s why today was so surprising. Maybe it was the mild temperature, maybe the fact that maintenance workers were in the process of dressing up the grassy knolls and picking up fallen palm fronds. Whatever it was, the place suddenly had so much potential.
So with favorable perspective, I picked out the specific individual characteristics of the park that combine to typically make it an unpleasant place to be and went back and snapped a few photos. In this neighborhood with it’s ambitious squads of graffiti artists, fixing these unsightly aspects and keeping them fixed would require tireless diligence, but I think the neighborhood is evolving into a community that could devote such diligence. All it takes is a somewhere to start.
What follows the jump is a photo essay of the park’s unsightly elements and ideas to fix them.
This is an average garbage can in Echo Park. Two things strike me: 1) it’s tagged, 2) even if it weren’t tagged, it would still be ugly. Why not replace these steel drums with wire cans like Metro uses. Those receptacles are inherently more attractive and offer the added benefit of no solid surfaces on which to paint. Kill two birds with one stone.
This is one of two sets of buoys in the lake. This one is in worse shape than the other, but both could use replacement. The nice thing about replacing these is, new one’s will last a while. Until the paddleboats come back, no one can get out there to deface them. These beat up things are a constant subconscious reminder of how beat down the park is.
To me, these photos are final and definitive proof that tagging is not a respectable art form. Most park visitors probably have never realized the beautiful mural underneath the obnoxious vandalism (if you destroy another piece of art, it’s undeniably vandalism). I was surprised to discover it myself. It’s a shame that anyone would “go over” something so good.
This is the most confusing park addition because it’s obviously been put there by Parks and Rec. Why does the southeast corner of the lake have an ugly chain link fence around it? To keep people from jumping in? To keep runaway cars exiting the freeway from careening into the water? The rest of the lake is unfenced. Why here? It’s ugly and subconsciously paternalistic and should be removed to preserve the parks integrity.
I assume that this structure houses some sort of pump or filtration system. Whatever is in there, it sucks in all the trash that floats in the lake. A “screen” of poles protects the grate from a lot of detritus, but obviously a lot gets through. Don’t the maintenance people clean this? If not, why not? It’s horrible, unsightly, and effectively destroys any charm the northeast corner of the park has. Here’s a reverse angle of the structure. This side is accessible from dry land. Perhaps it’s the excessive rain that caused everything to wash into this one corner, but from past observation, it’s never been clean. Who’d want o clean it? It’s the most natural homeless toilet in the park. Fence it off.
Just one example of the widespread tagging in the park. Every available surface bears a tag. Picnic tables, trashcans, park benches, water fountains…everything. Who is responsible for painting over these tags? Here’s a nice one right next to the playground. Awesome.
This is an average park bench on the east side of the lake. The benches on the west side are a more attractive design and are better maintained. A quick paintjob would improve the appearance and functionality of this bench ten-fold. Who is supposed to paint these things?
So now that I’ve made Echo Park look like a place no one would ever want to visit, I’m going to try to get all this fixed. Hopefully Councilman Garcetti will read this post. Hopefully someone at Parks and Rec will be responsive. I know there are higher priorities than beautification, but when you’ve got a park space with as much potential as Echo Park, why not put a little extra effort in to make it everything it could be?