Central Park in New York City is the third most visited tourist attraction in the world. With nearly 40 million visits per year, managing and maintaining the park is crucial for it to remain a healthy and iconic landscape. In August 2018, I visited Maura Lout, the Director of Urban Park Management Resources from the Central Park Conservancy, to learn about how they engage their many users to create a sense of ownership of the park, but also to protect it from being “loved to death”.
Central Park Conservancy reaches its numerous public users through various engagement programs such as the volunteer program, the visitor centres and tour programs. Their methods are novel in that community volunteers work on a roster in a fixed location of the park, which creates familiarity with the park and staff in that location fostering a sense of ownership of the park. This translates to regular users of the park being more likely to respect the park rules (such as keeping off the grass at certain times) as they recognise familiar workers and volunteers. This is crucial for maintaining the health of the park.
As the Central Park Conservancy is a public-private partnership, they also engage with their corporate donors through team building projects such as the Day in the Dirt program and other accessible projects which help the health of the park and enable donors to see the outcomes of their investment. In terms of engaging with community groups and stakeholders, all potential changes to the park from the planning design and construction team are open to a public review process, showing that the Central Park Conservancy values feedback from all users of the park.
The Central Park Conservancy conducts outreach to other park managers at a mid to senior level who are looking to enhance their leadership in park management. This is through a five-day interactive program designed to provide immersion in all critical parts of park management through public private partnerships. The programs cover topics such as governance, volunteer management, asset management, park operations and key performance indicators. These come in the form of round tables, lectures and participants engaging in activities, where best practice methods from parks around the world are analysed.
Mosaic Insights, with their diverse networks, has enabled me to engage with the Central Park Conservancy. As proprietor of one of the world’s most famous landmarks, they are dedicated to engaging with the multifaceted users of the park and conducting best practice to maintain the park for future generations. These insights from the Central Park Conservancy will allow me to form ideas that lead to impact to drive revolutionary change in Australia to create sustainable, resilient, liveable landscapes that support healthy and productive communities.