Page 1

Urban Renewal Restoring the Vision of Olmsted and Vaux in Central Park's Woodlands by Marianne Cramer

Civic involvement creates opportunities and obstacles in路a large-scale restoration and management


ew restoration projects have assumed a civic dimension as broad as that of the recent woodlands revival in New York's Central Park. From removing political roadblocks to surviving public scrutiny to handling an eager but diverse corps of volunteers, park planners faced tremendous challenges that required innovative responses. Rather than a restoration to a precontact landscape, the Central Park woodlands project sought to renew the magnificent urban plan of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who designed the park in the mid-1800s. Their original intent-to create rural tranquillity among the chaos of the city-guided each phase of the restoration.

The Genesis of Central


Park's Woodlands To create New York City's Central Park, 341 ha (843 acres) of prime real estate set aside for public use, many thousands of cartloads of top soil were imported from New Jersey and Long Island, hundreds of pounds of dynamite were used to blast the Manhattan schist bedrock for the sunken transverse roads, and miles of clay pipe were laid to thoroughly drain the landscape. Between 1857 and 1873 Olmsted and Vaux oversaw the creation of an idyllic public landscape out of what at the time was considered a relatively nondescript parcel of land at the city's urban fringe. . New York City hosts a wide array of natural communities from forests to salt marshes, according to the Native Species

Planting Guide for New York City and Vi-


(Parks & Recreation Natural Resources Group, 1993) Although only fragments of the pre-colonial forest survive, Marc Matsil, director of the Natural Resources Group, and his staff have done enough investigation to confirm that the plant community matrix was and continues to be unique on the Eastern Seaboard because of its location at the juncture of two hardiness zone limits. For instance, Staten Island still has evidence of sugar maple and beech forests (a northern hardiness zone plant community at its southern limit) mingled with hackberry and sweet bay magnolia (a southern hardiness zone plant community at its northern limits). Although plant records are not explicit until the 1800s, we do know that most of the original forest on Manhattan Island was cut by the Dutch and English settlers. The forest was further denuded by the British military who occupied the island for seven years (1776 to 1783) during the Revolutionary War. These actions directly affected Central Park, since there was a line of fortifications across its northern limits along with three permanent encampments. From the city's tax and condemnation records we also know that the land on which Central Park was built was changing rapidly during the mid-1850s as New York City expanded northward on Manhattan Island. As many as 5,000 people lived within Central Park's original boundaries, 57th to 106th streets, at that time. Land use varied from farms, pasturage, piggeries, and dwellings with subsistence gardens to churches and cemeteries, taverns, bone-boiling factories, rubbish heaps, quarries, and abandoned military Clnlty



11:2 Winter 1993

The central portion of the Loch today. Olmsted reconstructed a small stream into an open water body. which has since filled to capacity with silt from the watershed. Black willow (Salix nigra) trees that took hold several decades ago are now falling into the stream corridor. The woodlands advisory board has begun discussing management of this area. Photo by Sara Cedar Miller

fortifications. Inhabitants had already planted non-native species such as Lombardy poplar (Populus Nigra 'Italica'), and tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), particularly surrounding their dwellings. Contrary to written descriptions by Clarence Cook and others that give the impression that the land "as mostly barren, a survey of existing plants on the ground for Central Park conducted in August and September of 1857 by Charles Rawolle and Ignatz Pilat records more than 280 species, many of them native. Rawolle and Pilat estimated that there were 12,000 American hornbeam (Carpinus americana); 9,000 red maple (Acerrubrum); 8,000 specimens of nine Quercus species; 6,000 sweetgum (Liquidambarstyraciflua); 3,000 black locust (Robinia



pseudo-acacia); 1,200 specimens of the Salix genus; 1,000 specimens of the Betula genus; 600 mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa); 500 American chestnut (Castanea dentata); and 300 flowering dogwood (Comus florida) to name a few. American and beaked filbert (Corylus americana and C. comuta), wild black cherry (Prunus serotina), Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), sweet and swamp azaleas (Rhododendron arborescens and R. viscosum) , winterberry (Ilex laevigata) , sassafras (sassafras albidum), and common greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) were listed as abundant, common, or (very) numerous. The part of the landscape not disturbed by cutting, grazing, or trampling was regenerating. Olmsted wrote in 1857 about" ... a fine young

11:2 Winter 1993

wood of the native deciduous species admirably grouped by nature ... " in what is now the Upper Park's North Woods, and in the Lower Park a large but young grove of deciduous trees that would need few additions. Since the park could not rightly imitate seashore, desert, mountain, or prairie, the designers chose the overall landscape character to mimic rural scenery. It is well documented that this artistic style was directly imported from England's romantic landscapes designed by Humphrey Repton and Joseph Paxton, among others. Central Park's rural scenery featured two design types-the pastoral landscape, consisting of broad expanses of gently rolling meadows and placid lakes, and its direct contrast, the picturesque landscape. To fashion Central Park's picturesque areas, trees were left and new ones planted to form a continuous canopy; vines were trained to grow up tree trunks; mosses and ferns were encouraged to grow in boulder crevices; grades were changed on streams or water courses rerouted to create cascades; imported soil was mounded up and planted With evergreens to create the illusion of miniature mountains. Shelters or benches constructed were usually in the rustic style. Everything in the picturesque landscape was placed to enhance the visitor's enjoyment of the lushness and detail of a wilderness. It was to be a re-creation of scenery reminiscent of the Adirondack or Appalachian Mountains-genuine American landscapes. Approximately 20 percent of the land that Olmsted called "heterogeneous surface"-magnificent bedrock outcrops, a series of bluffs, a steep

"Rocky passages of the Park, which had been furnished under my direction with a natural growth of characteristic rocky hillside perennials, have been more than once 'cleaned up,' and so thoroughly that the leaf-mould, with which the crevices of the ledge had been carefully filled for the sustenance of the plants, was swept out with house brooms . . . and all in the heart of an Appalachian glen."

-Frederick Law Olmsted. "The Spoils of the Park," February 1882.


stream valley-was treated in this manwater drainage system, floods, eutrophic Rebirth of a Natural water bodies, and buildings covered with ner. Today 52 ha (130 acres) of the origLandmark graffiti. The park was literally "going inal picturesque landscape (falling into down the drain." three areas-the North Woods, the RamCentral Park has gone through many cyThe woodlands were the first landble, and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary) are cles of deterioration, public concern and scapes that park management abandoned. outcry, and subsequent renewal. The most designated park woodlands. Abandonment is of course a management In constructing the park Olmsted and severe decline occurred during the 1960s decision in itself; in this case it was made Vaux did not attempt to restore the origand '70s, when New York City budget because there was no other choice. By the inal deciduous forest or the shallow emercuts coincided with the rediscovery of the mid-'70s, the decimated maintenance gent marsh meadows (called "muscoota" park as a vital recreational and cultural force could hardly keep up with proper component of public life. Use was increasby the native Americans) that existed belawn care and daily garbage collection. fore the advent of the first European seting, spurred by a new concern for physical Although no year-by-year rectlers in the early 1600s. Olmord of management decisions is sted was creating an ideal available to document what acnaturalistic landscape-natural tually happened when the in its visual composition, not woodlands were abandoned, a its species composition. He and comparison of the 1934 field his horticulturists ordered survey and the 1982 ground thousands of plants from nursplane survey tells one part of eries in England, Scotland, and the tale. Because mowing was France that offered a greater vadiscontinued, many small riety and number than their woodland glades extant in 1934 American counterparts, which had disappeared by 1982. Opwere not yet ready to supply the portunistic species such as wild hundreds of thousands of plants cherry, sycamore maple (Acer actually installed in Central pseudoplatanus), Norway maple Park. Even if an all-native plant (A. platanoides) , and Japanese palette had been available, I seknotweed (Reynoutria japonica) riously doubt they would have had replaced "lawn." used them exclusively. After The year 1979 brought all, development of the park new life to Parks and Recreatook place at the height of the tion. New York City's fiscal criage of the great plant explorasis ended, a new administration tions, when anything exotic, was voted into office, and a new looking would have been seized Parks commissioner, Gordon and popped in the ground. Allowing for the scant informaDavis, set about making sweeption on plant communities ing changes in his moribund available to the builders and department. In order to re-esfirst managers of the park, they tablish authority and responsiwere not making the wrong debility at the lowest possible cisions. level, the commissioner initiated a decentralization of the As always, the passage of time is the one limiting and department by re-instituting The horticulture crew fills rock crevices with soil on the man路made regulating factor that occurs in five borough-level park comcliff by Glenspan Arch; extant native plants were left where they all living systems no matter missioner positions and creatgrew. Photo by Sara Cedar Miller how raw their beginnings. To ing the position of administrathe living communities prestor for major regional parks of fitness and an appetite for large events; ent, the park's original construction must the system. Elizabeth Barlow Rogers was maintenance was decreasing. Long-term have been as cataclysmic as a major earthappointed as the Central Park administraplanning and management were nonexistquake (although I still marvel how much tor. ent. This deadly combination was soon of the original physiography was left inOne of Rogers' most significant inimanifested in the park's physical conditact.) Then came more than a century of tiatives was to create a non-profit corpotion-loss of ground cover, diseased trees, the land's use as a park. As in many similar ration, the Central Park Conservancy, severe soil erosion and compaction, the naturalistic parks around the country, ours whose mission in part has been to raise breakdown of the underground stormdid not fare well. private funds to supplement the city's op-




11:2 Winter 1993

erations and capital budget for the park. In the past decade, the conservancy and its board of trustees has played an everincreasing role in managing, restoring and maintaining the park, and providing services and educational opportunities for its visitors. The establishment of the conservancy put the administrator, a city-appointed official and president of the conservancy, in a position to craft unique processes to manage and restore the park. For instance, in the absence of available city monies for planning, the conservancy funded the initial blueprint for the park's restoration in the early 1980s. In other cases, by funding design, the conservancy could leverage projects into the Parks department's budget when other projects failed to make the commitment plan deadline. Subsequently, it has provided the support needed to initiate and sustain the woodlands program. Immediately before the planning effort began in earnest, an incident occurred that would directly affect the woodland restoration process. A 1979 master plan drafted for the Ramble-a 36-acre woodland and premier birding area in the center of the park---emphasized restoring Olmsted's design intent (that is, it was not a restoration to the pre-contact landscape). To reclaim a vista established by Olmsted, two dozen trees were removed. The decision was made without significant public input, and heated dJbate followed. The majority of protesters testified that the removal of trees was an isolated decision that did not take into account post-removal issues such as plant replacement or area management. Although a group of naturalists and users had authored the wildlife chapter of the report and the proposal had been presented at several public forums, there had been no formal review and revision process, and thus no consensus for the recommendations. There was dismay at the lack of public involvement in the removal decision. Change in general in a city where a streetscape can change overnight is considered suspect. It is not unusual to receive complaint letters about the removal of a favored overhanging branch or a bench. This time the removal of trees was seen as




Close路up of the man-made cliff near Glenspan Arch. planted with such species as white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus); summersweet (Clethra alnifolia); winterberry (llex verticillata); Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides); and hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula).

Photo by Sara Cedar Miller

the begirming of an overall reduction in the tree canopy and subsequent loss of habitat for birds. At public hearings held by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and community boards many users sang praises for the wild cherry (Prunus serotina), the major species removed, as an excellent food source for migratory birds that should be kept at its present density and number. It was very clear at the end of the public airing that the environmental community had lost any shred of trust in agency decision-making and preferred that nothing be done at all in the woodlands. The incident captured the attention of the news media nationwide. For those of us who were about to embark on an even more difficult planning effort for the entire park, the episode was particularly enlightening. For me, as I think it was for , all the staff, the lessons learned from the public upheaval were ingested but not entirely assimilated. I had witnessed public opposition that effectively foreclosed the chance to rebuild a degraded area of the park. At the time my planning colleagues and I did not propose major public involvement in the plarming process we were just beginning and except for creat-

11:2 Winter 1993

ing a small committee to participate in the wildlife inventory and analysis, it was business as usual.

The Management and Restoration Plan For the next several years the park was examined from top to bottom by hydrologists, soil scientists, foresters, sociologists, and landscape architects. Each park-wide component system-geology, topography, utilities, soils, hydrology, vegetation and wildlife, maintenance, and security-was inventoried and analyzed. Investigations of park annual reports, maps, and photographs helped piece together a complex and fascinating history of the park and its component systems. I was part of the fourperson planning team responsible for managing the process and compiling and interpreting all data gathered by consultants and Central Park staff. In our analysis and subsequent plan formulation, we decided to divide the park into three distinct landscape types based on physical attributes and management needs. Of the three-meadow, parkland, and woodland-woodlands were the most complex and, at the time, the least understood.


The first cascade by Glenspan Arch. as it appeared in the 1870s. The Burrows house. a structure that pre-dates the park. is in the background atop the Great Hill.

Our general woodland goals and recommendations that were a part of the published plan, such as leaving some standing and fallen deadwood, eliminating erosion caused by the breakdown of the storm-water drainage system and offpath trampling, and controlling one nonnative species (Japanese knotweed), dealt almost exclusively with what should be done, not how to do it. Woodland landscape restorations were budgeted and scheduled like any other capital construction project. Looking back, it seems to me that we were just beginning to view the park and in particular the newly labeled woodlands as complicated natural systems in addition to recognizing their significance as an important visual component of the Olmstedian plan. In the mid-1980s the restoration of the meadows, parkland, and buildings ac-


celerated as the conservancy began to raise significant private dollars. There was little momentum for woodland projectsthey were too controversial. But in 1986, as the conservancy was preparing to go public with a five-year, $50 million capital campaign, an updated capital project priority list for the fund-raising effort was needed. While I was preparing a .map showing projects completed and in the planning, design, or construction stages, one glaring omission resurfaced. The park woodlands were nowhere on any schedule. Planning for and undertaking restoration of the woodlands could no longer be ignored. Our mission was to restore the entire park-not just the easy parts. Many of the particular problems of three out of the five major park watersheds were the direct result of deteriorating conditions in a woodland landscape. However, I knew

we would have to invent a completely different process for planning and funding the woodland restoration. When I made the case, the conservancy, understanding the seriousness of the problem, included woodland planning as a part of their capital fundraising effort. After six years of constructing standard landscape restoration projects in the park, it was evident that this process could not be used as a model for the woodlands. Construction documents are deceptive. On a layout plan, a dashed line for a new storm-water drain looks quite innocuous. It really means large machinery lumbering across the landscape compacting soil and deep excavation obliterating soil structure. True, mitigations could be devised, but the woods would still be affected. Capital construction procedures were even more ~avalier when addressing new plantings. This was the stuff of nightmares after witnessing the mayhem brought on by removal of two dozen woodland trees. As the person responsible for park design and planning at the time, I made several decisions that began to shape our process. The first was to ask Maintenance and Operations to assume direct reporting responsibility for woodland restoration. Planning, design, and construction departments would have an advisory relationship. The second was to commit to public involvement at the start of the project no matter how messy the process became. Our generic approach to involving the public up to this time was straightforward but did not engender public ownership of the decisions: first create the project plan, then request public input. The third was to go outside the Parks department to find an unbiased professional who had the ability to balance both environ~ mental and historic imperatives. Thus began the partnership with Leslie Sauer of Andropogon Associates that continues today. I remember asking Leslie as we walked through the Ravine what we as park managers should do when a treeany tree-fell in the woodlands. I do not recall her exact reply, but it had to do with creating a woodlands management program to be a paradigm of process and balance and let nature do as much of the work as possible. After initial conversa-



11:2 Winter 1993

tions and site visits, Leslie suggested starting the project with a key informant survey that concentrated on problems and concerns. The premise: by beginning dialogue and trust building on an issue, it will be less difficult to gain consensus. During the summer of 1988 Leslie met with groups and individuals representing the environmental community, adjacent park neighborhoods, and a wide variety of woodland users in addition to Parks department and Central Park personnel. Informal conversations were conducted with woodland users as she inspected each site. The result was a' draft document, "Landscape Management & Restoration Program for the Woodlands of Central Park, Phase One Report: Consensus of the Interviews, Key Issues & Initial Program Recommendations." Public involvement continued. The draft was released to the original participants with a request for written comments from which the final report was compiled and then distributed to a larger public audience in December of 1989. Participant comments reflected a continuing skepticism that history and environmental imperatives could ever coalesce; however, all were pleased with the process up to that point. Four major problems of the woodlands were identified: 1) off-path use of bicycles and vehicles, 2) off-path trampling, 3) breakdown of the storm-water drainage system, and 4) the spread of exotic invasive plant species, particularly Norway maple, sycamore maple, and Japanese knotweed. The report admitted that there was little known about the management and restoration of urban woodlands and recommended that much of the restoration be incorporated into the day-today management of the landscapes over a much longer period of time (decades to centuries instead of months to years). The approach would not only reduce stresses on the woodland ecosystem but also reduce the chance of large-scale missteps by allowing time to do the necessary inventory, research, and monitoring. Firm boundaries were established for each woodland area and buffer zones delineated. Within these boundaries, Leslie recommended only native plants be used. At the beginning of the process when the woodlands were being "stabilized," native



Woodlands crew me~bers place boulders by the newly dredged portion of the Loch.

... plants already proved successful-such as woodland aster (Asterdivaricatus) and Virginia polygonum (pQlygonum virginiana)would be used. Only later when the woods were healthier would a ground layer of more fragile plants be introduced. In all cases natural processes would be encouraged, but at the outset of woodland management and restoration it was not known what the prospects were for recovery of these heavily impacted sites. As Leslie and I began to envision what the components of a woodland restoration process would be, I was thinking about my other sacred trust-that of restoring the intent of the Olmstedian landscape. "Intent" is not meant to have an arcane meaning. Simply put, Central Park is a scenic landmark that was created solely for the health and enjoyment of people-past, present, and future. In order to accommodate present and future use, the park must be changed and adapted but, in all cases, using the general design principles manifest in the original plan. For instance, an original pathway may have to be relocated to accommodate a new destination. The actual placement takes a secondary role to nestling the path into the landscape, providing a pleasing curve and contour for the path and positioning it at the edge, not the middle, of a pastoral landscape type. With regard to

11:2 Winter 1993

the restoration of the woodlands our intent is not to restore the Olmstedian landscape species for species and placement for placement as it was in 1873. We are using as our ideal Olmsted's original ideal-the forests of the Adirondack and Appalachian mountains-positioned by our present conceptual knowledge of the ecology of the landscape, its structure and function. How different would a historic photograph of the Ravine look as compared to a photograph of a landscape restored to the structure and function of the Eastern Seaboard forest? Not much. This justification does not mean that in every case ecological and historic restoration are the same. It also does not mean that there are no conflicts between a historic restoration and an ecological restoration. For instance Olmsted redesigned an original stream flowing through the Ravine into a series of pools and cascades. Over time the pools have filled with silt from the watershed. Today the central portion has reverted to a marshy stream course. The structure of the landscape is interesting, but not as rich as its counterpart would be in a natural situatiCin. How should it be restored? Should the current hydrology of the system determine its form and function? Should it be designed as an efficient bio-filter? Should we dredge to re-create the Olmstedian wa-




ter body? These questions have yet to be answered. Just as important, Central Park's woodlands offer a pivotal laboratory for both the public and restoration professionals. It is "ground zero"; if a sustainable native forest can be established here, it can happen anywhere. Central Park is a landscape fragment. I like to describe it to the public as an island (the green rectangle) within an island (Manhattan Island) within an island (the metropolitan area). To the restoration community, it may seem too small to have meaning within the larger restoration picture. But to the urban population whose only forest experience is in the park, or to the migratory birds searching for a place in the sea of asphalt and glass to rest and refuel, it is irreplaceable. It deserves the most careful restoration we can offer. In Central Park's woodland, people are a part of the landscape ecology: they provide its structure and function by definition of the original mission of the park.

People as Part of the Process Although it took time for the park managers involved to become comfortable with the concept of public involvement, the fundamental idea of "managing toward ..." rather than "constructing to ..." was accepted immediately. We began using medical jargon in reference to the woodlands. Methods of erosion control became "trauma blankets." Prioritizing the woodlands was compared to a patient in a hospital choosing to undergo the coronary by-pass before having the facelift. The vocabulary was certainly appropriate: we had a patient on the critical list. Public involvement has grown organically out of the key informant survey recommendations. It has taken three years to put into place a full range of programs that engage the public-at-large, and the programs continue to evolve. This involvement now encompasses three roles: 1) decision-m~king, 2) helping to restore and


" '0; . Storm water coursing through the valley destroyed the path adjacent to Huddlestone Arch. The path is shown here after reconstruction and just before planting. Photo by Sara Cedar Miller


care for the woodlands, and 3) understanding and appreciating the importance of Central Park's woodlands and forests worldwide. First it was important to establish an identity for the woodlands as places with a unique set of characteristics, problems, and opportunities. The first step Leslie and I took was to coin the name North Woods for the collection of historically named landscapes-the Great Hill, the Ravine, and the area surrounding Block House No. 1.

Convening the Advisory Board Leslie was absolutely on target when she told me to get our toughest critics on the advisory board. It would have been easy to only recruit park friends and, believe me, I was tempted. The lesson learned is that you always meet your critics somewhere down the road. Better it be in a forum designed for working together rather than fighting against each other. It was not as if the board was to be composed solely of users- life-long birders, members of the Audubon Society or Sierra Club, community board members, or writers on the environmental scene. In fact, close to half the board has always .been parks department staff. We created the advisory board as a working committee meeting 12 or more times a year. Many of the same participants in the initial survey were asked to join the board. I asked Leslie to continue to consult with us as the chair and facilitator of the board and as an advisor to the staff. This has been a very different way of using a consultant. In effect the consultant is training the staff to make decisions and do the work. During the first year the advisory board established protocol, reaffirmed woodlands problems and decided what issues to tackle immediately. These first decisions were critical to the success of the board. Field implementation would only proceed if board consensus could be reached. A meeting summary would be distributed and become part of the continually developing management "plan." After site visits the board chose the North Woods area to concentrate its ef-




11:2 Winter 1993



ADAM CLAYTON •_ _ PO _W _E_U. ...: ]R _ BLVD ...- , -








]! I0 6TH ST

] J

'OJ 1ri"T~


) J





Approximate Tree Canopy


Lakes & Streams



Playgrounds with Water Ploy FeAtur e Pathways & Stair>

...,// Br idle Trail

The 90-acre North Woods in the Upper Park. now being restored into a healthy and diverse urban forest planted mostly with native species.



11:2 Winter 1993


"The management of the ground between the skating pond and Vista Rock'(now known as the Ramble) appears to be indicated by its fonn and the character of its present growth. It is well sheltered, and large masses of rock occur at intervals. The soil is moist, and altogether remarkably well adapted to what is called in Europe an American garden, that is, a ground for the special cultivation of hardy plants of the natural order Ericacaei, consisting of rhododendrons, andromedas, azaleas, kalmias, rhodoras &c. The present growth, consisting of sweetgum, spice-bush, tulip-tree, sassafras, red-maple, black-oak, azalea, andromeda &c., is exceedingly intricate and interesting. The ground is at present too much encumbered with stone, and with various indifferent plants. By clearing these away, and carefully leaving what is valuable; by making suitable paths, planting abundantly as above suggested, and introducing fastigiate shrubs, and evergreens occasionally, to prevent a monotony of hushes, the place may be made very channing."

-Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, "Description of a Plan for the Improoement of the Central Park. 'greensward,' " 1858.

forts. It was less impacted and less used, and thus a less controversial area to begin work. The board w~nted more information such as the relative health of the North Woods, especially regarding the extent of the spread of non-native' trees. With board approval, four categories of relative health were defined and recorded. "Stable" areas were defined as predominantly native communities with minimal exotic invasion. "Declining-early stages" would contain predominantly native communities, with evidence of early invasion, primarily seedling and sapling size plants. Invasive non-natives were reproducing at a greater rate than natives. "Declining-later stages" would include those landscapes with native communities still present but with reproduction distinctly curtailed and invasive non-natives well established and spreading rapidly. A "degraded" area would exhibit nonnatives well entrenched with minimal or no reproduction of native species. Native plants might still persist as besieged patches of ground cover or lone canopy trees. This inventory was not a scientific count: it was a "reading of the landscape" and the first assignment of the newly hired woodlands manager under Leslie Sauer's tutelage. Field implementation guidelines for each mapping unit were then established. Stable areas would receive monitoring and trash removal. If necessary manual removal of new non-native seed-


lings would occur twice a year. Degraded areas would also receive trash removal but in effect be contained by management of declining areas on their perimeter. It would be the declining areas that would need more management effort. The advisory board instructed the Woodlands Manager to begin removing non-native invasive seedlings and saplings up to 4 inches dbh in order of early-declining to later-declining areas. Removals would only occur when enough native ground cover was present to hold the top soil and when a sapling was not a part of the overstory canopy. All removals would be manual; no soil would be grubbed to effect complete root removal; there would be no removal if an excessive amount of soil would be exposed. The goal was to achieve a gradual expansion of the extent of stable landscapes. It was also agreed that this approach would have the highest cost-benefit ratio as less effort would be required for removal and the existing plant communities would hopefully close ranks without additional planting. In some cases it has taken several years to educate ourselves to the fact that there is no information out there on which to base decisions. Many board meetings are spent discussing so'me aspect of our program, such as the advisability of using herbicides. Leslie is the person mainly responsible for finding and distributing relevant literature and leading the discussions. I always meet with her before

board meetings to discuss the agenda issues and visit the woodland sites under discussion. The woodlands manager and director of horticulture have a standing invitation to attend these meetings. The board has moved on to many more issues and projects, such as establishing monitoring plots to test herbicide versus manual removal of Japanese knotweed. This past year the board developed an implementation and monitoring plan for the removal of seminal non-native invasives. For a board to assume this sort of mission requires a talented facilitator and committed members. It also needs expertise. We have been fortunate to have as 路 members the assistant director of the park's Natural Resources Group, Deborah Lev, and a researcher for the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Dr. Richard Pouyat. They have helped craft monitoring and research studies-the most recent of which will begin to document the presence or absence of ectomycorrhizae and do comparative studies in non-urban forests.

Caring for the Woodlands: Volunteers and Donors Dennis Burton, the new woodlands manager and "insider" who had worked on the Central Park Conservancy's tree crew and volunteer program, began by recruiting volunteers to implement the work program. Using volunteers had been a recommendation of the Phase I report and nevertheless there were no funds available to hire a crew. Letters went out to environmental organizations. In the spring of 1991 Central Park celebrated Earth Day with volunteer recruitment and woodland tours. Participants of Central Park's volunteer clearinghouse, Learning and Involvement for Volunteers in the Environment (L.I.V.E.), also transferred into the woodland program. Woodlands volunteers were asked to do more than clean, paint, sweep, and rake: they took on tasks normally performed by the park's landscape crews. Necessary specialized training was provided by the woodlands manager. A pool of 50 individuals became adept at identifying and removing invasive non-natives, collecting native seed for planting in areas



11:2 Winter 1993

A summer youth intern places jute mesh-part of a "trauma blanket"-on a slope so it will not wash away. Photo by Sara Cedar Miller

where soil stabilization was necessary, constructing trauma blankets, planting native materials and of course picking up litter. Invasive seedling and sapling removal was accelerated by the discovery of the Weed Wrench, a leverage tool that can slip root systems out of the ground without disturbance. Several other volunteer opportunities came our way and Dennis was quick to plug them into his work schedule. One call was from a teacher at the Manhattan School for Career Development, a public school for 16- to 21-year-olds with learning disabilities, who was interested in establishing a parks-related job-training program. The program has completed its second successful year, and several partic-



ipants have been hired to work in the park. Another call came from the advisor of the Ecology Club at the American Museum of Natural History about how to use Central Park as their backyard laboratory. Dennis set them to work monitoring woodland plots. On another front the Central Park Conservancy, with the Phase I report in hand, began to prospect for donors. Many of the foundations with an environmental mission were looking for projects of national significance that would include public involvement and education. With our program just beginning it was a difficult road, particularly for the first grant. It came from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which believed in our

11:2 Winter 1993

budding program and committed to a twoyear grant. Later support has come from the Norcross Wildlife Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Foundation. In addition to this support came the conservancy fund-raising effort known as the Campaign for the Upper Park (CUP). Established to implement 50 recommendations from a park use and security task force report released after a woman jogger was beaten and raped by neighborhood youth in the Ravine in 1989, CUP supplied funds to repave deteriorated pathways, reset steps, or create roundabouts and rebuild crumbling pedestrian bridges in the North Woods so that small maintenance and security vehicles could reach the woodland interior. As the circulation system and its storm-water drainage system is upgraded, woodland volunteers follow to plant and seed the landscape edges. Funding also came from the city in the form of the restoration of two arches, Glenspan and Huddles.tone, which are portals into the woodland stream valley called the Ravine. Although several planting plans had been completed, they were done before the inception of the woodlands program. This was a unique opportunity to guide a small capital project using woodlands principles and to improve two degraded areas on the relative health map. Starting from scratch, we worked with staff landscape architects and the board to complete a detailed inventory and analysis of each site landscape, a generic landscape type map, and a lise of native plant materials to go with each type. The contractor for the project was the Central Park Conservancy, which provided the masonry crews and supervision to restore the bridges. Work requiring general construction skills such as paving was subcontracted but supervised by conservancy personnel. The woodlands manager was the site supervisor for the landscape restoration, working in tandem with the general construction supervisor and project landscape architect. Through the contract he hired two site workers to implement the restoration plan. After the contract ended the workers were hired by the conservancy to be the woodlands management crew. Other Andropogon partners were brought in to help the crew construct adventure trails-a new form of


pathway for the woods-and to site plant materiaL Between the small capital projects and three years of consistent management supported by the volunteers, by the spring of 1993 we were ready to invite the public back to the Ravine.

Urban Forest Appreciation and Education: Public Programs and Outreach \

The 1991 Earth Day event was our first attempt to reach out to the park user. It was the first time in recent history that park managers and staff had met and talked to the park public on a one-to-one basis. Earth Day in 1993 added a new selfguided walking tour brochure of the "Ravine in the North Woods" (Quebecor donated printing costs as their Earth Day contribution). Complimentary copies were distributed at major park entrances and to tour participants. The woodlands crew and summer youth interns continued to hand out free copies of the brochure last summer. This past year a new event was added to the woodland event schedule-the first Annual National Trails Day---eo-sponsored by Eastern Mountain Sports and the Conservancy. Although the national message of the day was to care for our forest and wilderness trails, Central Park's message was enlarged to include the consequences of hiking or biking off-traiL The public was invited to join a volunteer work crew to repair an offpath desire line. Through their suppliers, EMS also donated funds to the woodlands program and is excited about continuing to work with the conservancy in the woods. On a day-to-day basis our new ambassadors for the woodlands are the members of the woodland crew. Providing a much-needed presence, they also remind


visitors about rules and pass on information such as bird sightings and plant names. Last summer was the second summer the Conservancy's Summer Youth Intern Program, employing high school youth from the city, has sponsored a woodlands crew. This year the program emphasized work and study. The crew participated in a wide variety of activities from site monitoring to providing information to the park visitor. Signs are another way to get the woodland message out to the public. This past summer a new environmental sign system was tested in and around the North Woods. The sign system will help visitors navigate more easily through the park and will also for the first time alert them to general park rules and rules for special landscapes such as the woodlands. Ever since prot~ctive fences have been installed, we have been posting temporary informational signage on them that informs the visitor about the woodland management and restoration program. This past fall a new visitor center emphasizing environmental issues opened to the public. Educators with input from Dennis, Leslie, and me planned and are now offering educational programs for schools and the general public that use the park's woodlands and water bodies as a resource. The center will feature an environmental timeline and provide the Ravine walking tour brochure and a new public information quarterly newsletter, WOODS WATCH, to the public. The woodlands program has for me been an achievement not only because of the results but because it has included the cooperation of virtually every department in the Central Park organization. Each small success is the result of this cooperation. Although there are many ways to craft a process that includes public pa~tic足 ipation at every level, I am continually

amazed at how well our particular process works. I am even more delighted when I take a Saturday hike through the North Woods and encounter birders, families, and teenage couples who would have never used this part of the park five years ago. Much more work is necessary on all fronts and some of our potentially controversial management and restoration decisions are still ahead of us. It is just the beginning.

REFERENCES Andropogon Associates, LTD. 1989. Land-

scape Management & Restoration Program for the Woodlands of Central Park: Plw.se I. Not published. Xeroxes available from the Central Park Conservancy. Barlow, Elizabeth et al. 1981. The Central Park Book. Central Park Task Force, New York. Cook, C.c. 1959. A Description of the New York Central Park. Benjamin Bloom, Inc., New York.' Cramer, M., J. Heintz and B. Kelly. 1984. Vegetation in Central Park. Draft. Not published. Luttenberg, D., D. Lev, and M. Feller. 1993.

Native Species Planting Guide for New York City and Vicinity. Parks & Recreation, New York. Olmsted, F.L., Jr., and T. Kimball. 1973. Forty Years of Landscape Architecture: Central Park. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Rawolle, c., and LA. Pilat. 1857. Catalogue of Plants gathered in August and September 1857 in the ground of the Central Park. M.W. Siebert, New York. Rogers, E.B., M. Cramer, J. Heintz, B. Kelly, and P. Winslow. 1987. Rebuilding Central

Park: A Management and Restoration Plan. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Marianne Cramer is a landscape architect and currently the Central Park planner. She Iw.s been in the trenches helping to guide the multi-milHondollar rebuilding effort for the park since 1982 and is responsible for initiating the woodlands management and restoration program. Her address is Central Park Administrator's Office, The Arsenal, Central Park, New York, NY 10021.




11:2 Winter 1993

Profile for Andropogon Associates, Ltd

Urban Renewal- Restoring the Vision of Olmsted andVaux in Central Park's Woodlands  

Marianne Cramer Restoration and Managment Notes Winter 1993

Urban Renewal- Restoring the Vision of Olmsted andVaux in Central Park's Woodlands  

Marianne Cramer Restoration and Managment Notes Winter 1993