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Coronavirus: Echo Park is different now. Here’s what I saw on my walk

Echo Park Late
A fisherman at Echo Park Lake.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Yes, the world is different. But there’s still water in Echo Park Lake, still a tall fountain in the middle, still a pleasant path that wraps around the water. So I went for a walk on Wednesday, as I’m trying to do every day.

The lake’s dozens of white, swan-shaped paddle boats are locked up and the cafe is closed, but plenty of people are using the park. Runners. Anglers. Families with little kids. And lots of ice cream vendors.

I asked one how much he was selling.

“Very little,” he said. “Maybe later...”

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I had parked a block away — plenty of spaces available — and started at the east end of the lake, where about two dozen semi-permanent tents are arrayed near the picnic tables, where a couple of card games were happening.

There are almost no tents around the rest of the lake. In fact, the path was so tidy, it looked as if a clean-up crew had just finished.

At water’s edge, ducks and geese puttered among lotus plants. At the playground, several children climbed on play structures — even though officials have urged families to leave those alone — and a young man in blue gloves and a green hat practiced a TikTok dance.

Sergio Amaya, 39, stood with a fishing rod in hand, hoping for bass. He grew up in Echo Park, and even though he now lives in Baldwin Park, he likes to come back.

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“I had a big bite on the other side,” he said. “Lost it, though.”

On I walked. The sun peeked through the clouds. My trip around the lake — absolutely a worthwhile excursion — took about half an hour. It might have taken even less time, but I stopped to snap a few photos and to chat here and there. Even as they keep their physical distance, I think people are ready to talk.

Echo Park Lake
Walkers gather near a statue at Echo Park Lake as an ice cream vendor approaches.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

“Hey,” said John Epiceno, sitting on a bench nearby. “You ever seen a duck like that?”

He pointed toward a strange little bird, just surfacing, with a blue bill.

“He lives right there in that bush,” Epiceno said.

I explained that I was writing something about little escapes. We ceremonially bumped elbows.

Epiceno, 60, told me he lives in the neighborhood and works an overnight job.

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“When I get off, I come here. Look at the beautiful-ness.”

He wasn’t worried about the outbreak. “Just keep clean,” he said. “That’s all you gotta do. People panic too much.”

The city of Los Angeles has closed all of its recreation and parks facilities, but hiking trails and some other outdoor opportunities are available. Check with the city’s website before you go — and pay attention to county and state instructions to limit risks.


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