I’m in the Big Apple for a few days, staying just a few blocks from Central Park on the Upper East Side.
Central Park was created in the 1850’s, opening to the public in 1858. Much of the land was home to approximately 1600 mainly free black people and Irish immigrants, who were evicted in 1855. Many people were involved in the design and construction of the park. According to the Wikipedia article more than 20000 individuals contributed in some way to creating the park. Nowadays much of Central Park looks very natural, but in fact it is landscaped carefully to incorporate woods and lakes, hills and fields. Landscaping was hard work, as the land was rocky and swampy.
The three sections of the park have a different ‘feel’ to them. The southern section has a slightly more formal feel, with wide avenues of trees. It is where the horse drawn carriages congregate to take tourists round parts of the bridle path. The middle section has the reservoir and the pinetum. The northern section feels more like a mini countryside in parts, with hilly bits and rocky outcrops. However it also has the English, Italian and French gardens, which are small formal gardens. The Harlem Meer is also in this section, a natural looking lake.
The Park has gone through its share of ups and downs. Most recently in the 1970’s and 1980’s it was shabby, run down and dangerous. The Central Park Conservancy was created and has transformed the appearance of the park, and also vastly improved its safety record.
The following paragraph is copied from the official website of Central Park, and I think it reflects an interesting philosophy of civic pride, and a sense of community. Closer to home in Ealing the local anti litter group LAGER-CAN is doing a great job helping involve local residents in keeping the parks clean and attractive.
Central Park’s restorations gradually fostered important social changes in public behavior that returned the sanctity of public space to Central Park and ultimately to New York City at large. The American ideal of a great public park and its importance as a place to model and shape public behavior and enhance the quality of life for all its citizens once again defines the measurement of a great municipality. Toward this goal, the Conservancy was first in its demonstration of zero tolerance for both garbage and graffiti. An immediate call to action came when even the slightest sign of vandalism appeared in the Park — a busted lamppost or broken bench, for example — and became the tipping point that turned public opinion of Central Park from one of dire repulsion to one of deep respect.
I am lucky enough to be staying only a few blocks from the entrance to the middle section, right by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Round the reservoir is a path that is only for walkers and runners. It gets mighty busy too! First thing in the morning it is like a mini Parkrun. To help keep things flowing there is a one way system, and everyone is supposed to go anti-clockwise round the path. But there’s always a few rebels who want to do it their way!
The reservoir track is a great place to see the sunrise, and watch the reflections of the trees and buildings. Birds fly across the water, or settle on the wall that crosses it just below the surface. The rest of the park also offers lovely routes through trees – just on the turn at this time of year – and past flower beds and landscaped areas.
I’m lucky to be able to run occasionally in this fab park, and I appreciate the work that’s gone into maintaining and improving it in the last 40 years.
Well that’s all for now. Next instalment of holiday running tales soon!