The song Winter Wonderland may evoke scenes of a bucolic countryside for many but, as a lifelong New Yorker, Central Park is my wonderland in the winter.
The Park stretches about 50 blocks, spanning 843 acres from 59th Street to 110th Street between 5th Avenue and Central Park West. As an avid runner, I’m drawn to these paths for my chilly 6 a.m. runs.
Located at the southern end of the Park, the backdrop to Wollman Rink is a timeless view of New York’s blend of old and new architecture. As soon as the temperatures drop each year, usually mid-October, Wollman Rink opens to ice skaters young and old, experienced and novice. There is a fee to skate, even to be a spectator, and the rink is cash only. But it is, in my opinion, money well spent if you really want to experience winter fun at its best. Skating in the park, originally on the Lake, has been a tradition since it first opened in the 1850s.
All of the wonder that is Central Park in the winter is possible, in large part, because of the work of the Central Park Conservancy. In the 1960s and 70s, the Park was in a serious decline. A group of concerned citizens came together in the early 80s and formed the Conservancy. Today, that group is an official nonprofit and raises 75 percent of the Park’s annual budget. The Conservancy, under a contract with the City of New York, manages Central Park.
What does it take to manage a place that has more than 40 million visitors a year? The Conservancy website states, “Conservancy crews aerate and seed lawns; rake leaves; prune and fertilize trees; plant shrubs and flowers; maintain ballfields and playgrounds; remove graffiti; conserve monuments, bridges, and buildings; and care for water bodies and woodlands.”
In total, the crews protect and maintain not just the grounds, but over 150 acres of lakes and streams.
The Park really wouldn’t be the beautiful open space — the place to stretch and breathe and enjoy the changing seasons — without the Conservancy. That’s why I’m proud to help them through the support of the Charatan/Holm Foundation.
One thing the Conservancy doesn’t manage: the weather. Part of the idyllic winter wonderland is the snow, whether it’s flakes drifting around like a snow globe come to life or a sparkling white blanket covering the ground.
But New York won’t disappoint when it comes to the final details. The average snowfall in the city is 22 to 31 inches annually. So, while walking in Central Park this season, you can sing “Winter Wonderland” and then, quite possibly, do an encore: Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!