Becka Vargus Katz was approaching her fifth wedding anniversary and, keeping with tradition, she was looking for a gift made of wood for her husband, Robert. "Well, I could get him a bowl," Becka thought. Unsatisfied by the standard gift options, Becka turned to one of the couple's favorite places: their "backyard," Central Park.
Becka searched the Conservancy's website for ways of supporting the Park that her family could connect with "more tangibly" than a check. When she found the Conservancy's Endow a Tree program, she knew "it was perfect." The program allows donors to select an existing tree in Central Park to sponsor, with a personalized granite paving stone commemorating the endowment on Literary Walk (at East 66th Street). The gift was unique, meaningful, tangible and, best of all, made of wood.
Through the Endow a Tree program, Becka and Robert chose to tour their favorite section of the Park, the Arthur Ross Pinetum (at West 85th Street), in search of a tree to endow. With the help of Neil Calvanese, the Conservancy’s Vice-President for Operations, the couple selected a 60-year-old European hornbeam that was "there and strong, but not parading." The couple was "truly thrilled" to find their tree. "As our marriage grows," Becka said, "it will grow."
Robert is from Montreal and Becka is from Indiana, and both have been frequent visitors to the Park since moving to New York in the mid-1990s. Moving from "places that are not New York City" for their careers, Becka said the Park has given them a much-needed means of "recharging and connecting with nature" in the midst of of urban life.
Their relationship to Central Park has changed since becoming parents. "Once we had children we realized how important the Park was," Becka said. Central Park provides their kids with "a place to run; a place to feel free; a place to pick up twigs and watch a squirrel." The Park is where their family spends regular afternoons and birthday parties.
"The Park gives so much to us," Robert said. Becka said endowing a tree has enhanced their family's already intimate connection with the Park. "We can't wait to go back to that tree. As our kids grow up, as our lives here change, to be able to say 'this is our little tree'… it's really an exciting experience."
"It's one of my better gifts," Becka added.
For more information on how you can Endow a Tree, or support the Central Park Conservancy Women's Committee Tree Trust, click here.
When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in the 19th Century, they designated this 10-acre meadow in the southwest corner of the Park as a "playground" — the term used to describe a versatile open meadow intended for games, sports and informal play.