Central Park Conservancy
Central Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s greatest landscape architect, and Calvert Vaux in 1858. (Olmsted and Vaux also designed Morningside Park in Harlem; Riverside Park, flanking the Hudson River; and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.) Built between 1858 and 1873, the park comprises six percent of Manhattan’s land area (843 acres) and is 2.5 miles long and a half-mile wide. The most frequented urban park in the nation, it attracts over 15 million visitors yearly. It is the largest work of art in New York City.
Central Park’s 26,000 trees and 132 acres of woodlands and meadows are both a haven for people and a natural habitat for wildlife. Water covers another 150 acres. There are 58 miles of pedestrian pathways that weave through an interlocking tapestry of meadows, lakes, forests and gardens. There are 4.7 miles of bridle trail, 21 playgrounds, 30 tennis courts, 26 baseball diamonds, two skating rinks, a swimming pool and a 1.6-mile running track around the reservoir.
Other park highlights include the Ramble, a wooded area of labyrinthine pathways, streams and concealed lawns; the Sheep Meadow, the great open lawn popular with sunbathers and picnickers; Bethesda Terrace, the only formal architectural element of Olmsted and Vaux’s plan; and the Central Park Zoo. Adjacent to the Boathouse and its neo-Renaissance concrete basin is the oversize Alice in Wonderland sculpture, a favorite of children. Most of the 200 or so bridges throughout the park, many of them strikingly beautiful, were designed by Vaux.
Other attractions include ice skating in winter at Wollman Rink and, during summer, the largest free outdoor concerts in the United States by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. The New York City Marathon, a major event each October, finishes in Central Park.
The Central Park Conservancy, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1980, administers Central Park in partnership with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The conservancy provides more than half the park’s annual operating budget through donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. In addition to providing all horticultural care, the conservancy restores Central Park landscapes (more than half the park to date) and implements educational, recreational and volunteer programs.