The Ramble

Project Progress

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Complete April 2018

Our restoration of the Ramble was designed to renew the scenic character, enhance the habitat value, and improve the visitor experience of the urban woodland landscape at the heart of the Park’s historic design.

Central Park co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted described the 36-acre Ramble as a “wild garden” intended to evoke a sense of intricacy and mystery. Winding and interlacing paths traversed the rugged topography and dense vegetation; rustic shelters provided shade and places to rest and take in the scenery; the Gill – a manmade watercourse – meandered downhill, traversed by several rustic bridges before ending in a small cascade and spilling into the Lake. For much of the 20th century, the Ramble suffered from management neglect resulting in landscape erosion, silting in the Gill, overgrowth with self-seeding and invasive species, and deterioration of paths, infrastructure, and rustic features. More recently, a number of severe weather events dramatically impacted the landscape.

The Conservancy restored the Ramble as part of a comprehensive, multi-year effort to renew and sustain the Park’s woodlands. Our approach to this restoration embraced two equally important and mutually reinforcing elements: the ecological value of the woodlands as a wildlife habitat and the cultural value of the Park as a scenic landmark.

The completed work includes rebuilding aging paths and infrastructure to support continued stewardship and increasing use; the horticultural and ecological restoration in connection with this work is focused on improving soils, removing invasive species, and re-establishing native plant communities. We also completed a restoration of the Gill, which involved deepening the watercourse by removing accumulated sediments, but varying its depth and planting aquatics to improve habitat complexity; rustic bridges and overlooks along the length of the Gill have also been restored.

The final phase of our work in the Ramble will be the restoration and reconstruction of its rustic structures, including the re-creation of three open-air shelters that once existed at high points in the landscape, providing shaded seating where visitors might rest and take in views of the surrounding scenery.

Left to right: Concrete bridge built in the 1930s that replaced an original stone crossing over the Gill; workers disassembled boulders below the concrete bridge, which were later used to reconstruct the historic stone crossing; stone bridge after reconstruction
Left to right: A newly constructed rustic bridge at Azalea Pond; Gill overlook, after reconstruction; the Gill, after restoration
  • Our Process

    Restoring Central Park is a collaborative effort. Our team of historians, planners, landscape architects, and architects work in partnership with the public to preserve the Park’s original ideals while enhancing the experience for today’s visitors.

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