That posted sign you see at right (click to biggify) can be found on the door to the recently renovated Echo Park Lake boathouse and when it was brought to my attention yesterday my first thought was “leave it to the city to spend thousands of dollars fixing something up so that they can shut it down,” and then my second thought was “this can’t be right!”
Fortunately I wasn’t alone in that second thought, as it seemed shared to varying degrees at the Edendale Library by the members in attendance at tonight’s meeting of the Echo Park Advisory Board — but most imporantly by Councilman Eric Garcetti’s Field Deputy Kabira Stokes Hochberg who helped put to rest the rumor that the community was about to lose a historic and cultural landmark that had just been spiffed up this past winter with a new tile roof.
“There’s no discussion on the table about closing the boathouse,” she told the board members and visitors. “Just the boats.”
Well whew, that’s a relief. No, wait… what does that mean exactly?
“We were told a few months ago that the paddleboat operations at MacAurthur Park and Echo Park run at a deficit,” Hochberg said. “They’ve never been a sustainable operation. It costs about $104,000 a year to operate both programs and here at Echo Park they make $19,000.”
An 80% hole is pretty weak, for sure. Nevertheless, though so perenially floundering in the red Hochberg added that year after year “they’ve always found the money somewhere,” despite the paddleboats having never been officially budgeted. But apparently the bucks are finally stopping this fiscal year. Recreation and Parks Deparment budget cuts torpedoed any chance of funding the operations, and thus the paddleboats at both lakes are slated to be drydocked indefinitely at the end of this month.
Can you imagine either place without paddleboats. Hochberg said her boss sure can’t: “The councilmember is saying [to Rec & Parks] absolutely not, there’s no way you’re taking this away.” But what about the funds, you ask? Hochberg says Garcetti’s got that covered, too — or at least juggled.
“There are some monies that we have out in other parks in Council District 13 that won’t actually be used this year so we’re looking to transfer those,” she said.
Which means the boats will most likely float on, for now. But as to their long-term future, that’s pretty much adrift.
“It is very unlikely that the paddleboats are going to go away this summer,” Hochberg said. “We’re going to look for funding through Labor Day and then see where it goes from there.”