I was in New York three years ago and was determined to make my way around Central Park in an afternoon. As ‘bad’ luck would have it, I got lost in the Ramble and was in tears as I stood on a path looking up into the trees. I eventually found my way out of Central Park and vowed I would try again one day.
That I did! With the help of the Central Park Conservancy, I took one of their wonderful tours and was fully immersed in a true Central Park experience.
As per the Central Park Conservancy, ‘The mission of the Central Park Conservancy is to restore, manage, and enhance Central Park in partnership with the public. We aspire to build a great organization that sets the standard for and spreads the principles of world-class park management — emphasizing environmental excellence — to improve the quality of open space for the enjoyment of all. The Central Park Conservancy is committed to sustaining this operating model to provide a legacy for future generations of park users.’
The tour I took was the ‘The Art of the Park Tour’ (http://www.centralparknyc.org/events/parent-events/the-art-of-the-park-tour.html). Central Park has long been revered as a masterpiece of living art. Visitors on this tour will admire Park vistas as if walking through a landscape painting, all while learning about the Park’s intricate design features. The Park’s most artfully executed landscapes on this tour led by Central Park Conservancy guides. Highlights of this tour include: Sheep Meadow, the Mall, Bethesda Terrace, Bow Bridge, the Ramble, and Belvedere Castle.
The tour started at the Dairy Visitor Center (mid-Park between 64th and 65th Streets) and ended at Belvedere Castle (mid-Park at 79th Street). It was approximately 90 minutes. The cost was minimal at $15 a ticket (Members $10) and was worth every penny. Check out, http://www.centralparknyc.org/tours/ for a tour that may tickle your fancy!
What did the Central Park Conservancy teach me on my ‘The Art of the Park Tour’?
- When and why was Central Park Conservancy founded? Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980 by a group of civic and philanthropic New Yorkers who were determined to end Central Park’s dramatic decline of the 1970s and restore it as America’s first and foremost major urban public park.
- What is your relationship with the City of New York? In 1980, Central Park Conservancy was founded with the purpose of managing the restoration and maintenance of Central Park. Eighteen years later, in 1998, we signed a management agreement with the City of New York, formalizing their public-private partnership and our responsibilities.
- What are you responsible for? As of 2016, Central Park Conservancy is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operation of Central Park, along with the continued restoration of its landscapes. Currently, 90 percent of the Park’s maintenance and operations staff are employed by Central Park Conservancy, which also provides 75% of Central Park’s $67 million annual operating budget. More specifically, Conservancy crews: care for 693 acres of land 150 acres of lakes and streams 20,000 trees install hundreds of thousands of plantings annually.
- We also operate five visitor centers throughout Central Park, where visitors can get information and resources to enhance their Park experience.
- What have you accomplished during your 36-year stewardship of Central Park? Since 1980, Central Park Conservancy has overseen the investment of more than $800 million into Central Park, privately raising the vast majority of that amount from individuals, corporations, and foundations. We have developed and implemented a management and restoration plan for the 843-acre Park, created educational and enrichment programs for visitors, and shared our experience in urban park management with other parks throughout New York City and around the world to encourage accessible urban parkland wherever possible.
- What’s next for Central Park Conservancy? Sustaining our restoration of the Park will never end — it’s a 24/7 job. We are dedicated to making sure the Park never re-enters its historic cycle of restoration and decline. In addition, we are in the midst of two new campaigns. Central Play seeks to fund the renovation and reconstruction of each of Central Park’s 21 playgrounds, many of which haven’t been updated in decades. The Woodlands Initiative seeks to restore Central Park’s 80 acres of woodlands, which play an important role in maintaining the Park’s biodiversity and serving as a peaceful respite from the chaos of New York City. We also are excited to continue formally sharing our expertise in urban park management with parks groups around the world.
The next time you are in New York, please make a stop at Central Park and most importantly take a tour with the Central Park Conservancy. It is truly a magical and healing experience.