Now that the season of giving thanks is upon us, I need to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the team at Central Park Conservancy for the outstanding job they have done to help me maintain my sanity in this otherwise crazy time called 2020.
Every year, at least once a year, I take a journey by train from Baltimore to New York City and without fail, I schedule in a full day (or 2 half days) at Central Park while I’m in town. It was one year ago last week since my bestie and I celebrated her birthday in the Big Apple. Being a bestie and all, she agreed to indulge my obsession and include a trip to Central Park for a day. (Happy Birthday, Joyce!)
I had plans to return in the Spring of 2020. Hotel room? Booked. Train Ticket? In hand. Travelling party? Yep. And then the pandemic hit. Once it became obvious that the park would not receive the number of visitors they are accustomed to, the team at the Conservancy began offering virtual walking tours of the park every Wednesday at 12:30pm. Lasting 15 minutes, this break in the middle of the work week, in the middle of the day, was just what the doctor ordered. It also taught me so much more than I ever knew about Central Park, even though my friends call me the Central Park “expert.” As a result of the tours, I found out that is far from true.
Having spent most of my time in the Southern end of the Park, I had no idea there were waterfalls and hiking paths. There’s a zoo and a botanical garden. There was once a town called Seneca Village where people actually lived. Right inside the Park! I knew about the Reservoir – who hasn’t seen that in movies – but I hadn’t ever gotten that far North before. These Wednesday afternoon tours (I love that they chose hump day to get us over another bump in the road during these challenging times) changed all that. They include a presentation by the person who takes photos the week before so we can see what the Park looks like currently, and at least one other team member who answers your questions in real time. In every case they sprinkle in historical black and white images as well as original maps. I’m telling you, it’s a virtual must see even if you have never been to Central Park or don’t know anything about it. But especially if you have been there before and think you know the park at all.
My first time at Central Park was to visit the Imagine Mosaic that was dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. I have been a Beatles fan all my life and the loss of John was painful. I needed to pay my respects at the spot in the park called “Strawberry Fields.” Little did I know that as I walked away from the Mosaic that day and made my way through the park on foot, without a plan or a map, I would come upon sites like I had never seen before. Forget the street musicians that serenaded me at every turn (all good, by the way), but the feast my eyes fell upon by way of trees and lawns and statues and fountains and lakes and bridges! I was instantly mesmerized. There was no turning back.
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Central Park Conservancy team, I am able to have a virtual connection with Central Park even though I can’t be there. In addition to the Wednesday tours, they have added longer tours on Tuesdays with guest speakers. And the last two months, I’ve attended Saturday morning art classes with a Park artist who accepts even those among us who can only draw stick figures. It’s so much fun drawing the unique trees and learning about their shapes and leaves from someone who knows the park so well.
I would encourage anyone who has 15 minutes in their day, to sign on to the Central Park Conservancy web site this Wednesday and experience the unique opportunity to share in the calm that we all need these days. I promise you will learn something and enjoy yourself immensely.
As for my “expert” status, this engaging team at the Conservancy taught me the Imagine Mosaic is located in an area of the Park that is shaped like a tear drop. I had no idea. But you can believe that as soon as it’s safe to travel I’m getting on a train and heading to Central Park for a guided tour of “Strawberry Fields,” Bethesda Fountain, the Lake, the Mall, and points North.
Thanks to everyone at the Central Park Conservancy and Happy Thanksgiving. #MyCentralPark
Note: To participate in the Virtual Tours visit https://www.centralparknyc.org/ where you can also support the work they do to maintain this national treasure.