Central Park Conservancy: Restoring and Encouraging Use of Central Park by Nancy L. Kourland, Member

by Nancy L. Kourland

The New York City-based Central Park Conservancy consists of civic-minded citizens and local leaders dedicated to restoring, maintaining, and improving Central Park. Currently, the Conservancy employs 80 percent of the Park’s maintenance staff and provides more than $31 million toward the city landmark’s annual operating costs.

Mission and History

Organized in 1980, the Central Park Conservancy initially dedicated itself to restoring Central Park to its pre-1970s splendor, when the landmark served as the nation’s premier urban public space. Some 18 years later, the Conservancy and New York City officially entered into a public-private partnership for the management of the Park. In 2006, both entities agreed to renew the partnership for another eight years. Since the founding of the Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit group has contributed $550 million to the Park’s operational and restoration costs, funds that were donated by individuals, companies, foundations, and New York City government.

Restoration Projects

The Central Park Conservancy launched its first fund-raising campaign in 1986, an effort that led to the restoration of iconic locations, such as the Grand Army Plaza, Shakespeare Garden, and Bethesda Terrace. During the 1990s, the organization focused on capital projects in Central Park’s northern portions, including the rejuvenation of the Harlem Meer area, the Great Lawn, and North Meadow. Organizing a third campaign in 2005, the Conservancy has focused on repairing the area of the Park that runs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the northeast end near Harlem Meer.

Current Efforts

The Central Park Conservancy’s volunteers and employees currently maintain more than 250 acres of Central Park’s lawns, 130 acres of forestland, 150 acres of waterways, and approximately 24,000 trees. The Conservancy’s responsibilities also include caring for 9,000 benches, nearly 50 sports fields and playgrounds, and 55 sculptures and monuments. In addition to gathering and disposal of more than 5 million pounds of trash each year from the Park, the nonprofit group organizes annual public outreach and volunteer programs for children and adults and manages 5 visitor centers. Read more about the Central Park Conservancy online at www.centralparknyc.org.