Whether raking leaves, painting benches, helping with horticultural projects or guiding visitors, the Conservancy's dedicated volunteers make a difference in Central Park every day. Consider that in 2011, about 2,000 individual volunteers donated more than 40,000 hours of their time to the Park. Ina Rosenthal is one of those volunteers. For more than a year, Ina has been giving her time to the Conservancy as one of 60 Greensward Guides. She greets Park visitors, giving them directions, informing them of upcoming events, and talking to them about the Conservancy's mission.
Q: How did you begin volunteering with the Conservancy?
A: When I moved to New York City 20 years ago, I was a big power walker. I got to know Central Park really well, walking all the different paths. I thought it'd be great to volunteer as a tour guide, but at the time I was busy working as an actor. Once I had the time to commit, I started volunteering as a Greensward Guide — not a tour guide as I had first planned, but a similar role. I just thought that if I use the Park every day, I should give back to it.
Q: What do you get out of volunteering?
A: I come home invigorated. I get to meet and help visitors from around the world, and they're so grateful. They hug you, they kiss you, they take your picture. I get so much satisfaction out of it — more than I expected. I mean, where else would I have the chance to help a young man find a romantic place to propose to his girlfriend — or talk to two Russian monks?
Q: What's the most common question you get from visitors?
A: "Where's Strawberry Fields?"
Q: We thought you'd say, "Where's the bathroom?"
A: That's the second most common.
Q: What suggestions do you have for visitors this time of year?
A: Walk to the Lake, sit on one of the benches and just admire the view. Oh, it's just breathtaking. New Yorkers travel the world to see views that they could just as easily walk into Central Park and see. We're so lucky that the Conservancy restored the Park to what it is today and what was envisioned by the designers more than 150 years ago. I think Frederick Law Olmsted [the Park's co-designer] is smiling somewhere. And believe me, I understand it took a lot to get him to smile.
Interested in volunteering for the Conservancy? Learn more about how you can give back to your Park.