Keeping NYC's Backyard Clean & Green: A Park Lover's Guide to Visiting Central Park

Over the past year, it’s become abundantly clear just how important public parks are to our mental, physical, and community health. The staff at the Central Park Conservancy is acutely aware of this innate human need for greenspace, and we’re happy to see growing enthusiasm for Central Park and the peace it provides New Yorkers and visitors.

With that enthusiasm, of course, comes an increase in Park usage—which greatly impacts the complex ecosystems that operate within these 843 acres!

As we experience one of the busiest years in Central Park history, let’s work together to tend to the Park we need, and that in turn, needs us. Read this checklist before your next visit and help us keep the Park healthy this summer and for seasons to come.

A bearded gentleman lying on his back and reading on the meadow

There are plenty of places to relax in Central Park. Fields and lawns can fill up fast on the weekends, so explore our Park maps to find some areas off the beaten path that may better suit your style.

Prepare and Pack Accordingly

By planning ahead, you can feel good about not only enjoying Central Park, but about protecting it. Whether you have a favorite spot in the Park or want to explore a new landscape, check out our handy maps before your next visit for helpful tips about a location’s proximity to bathrooms, water fountains, and playgrounds. You can also bookmark our alerts page to stay in the know about any maintenance or storm-related closures. Here are some other tips to consider:

  • Do pack blankets and camp chairs, but don’t bring plastic tarps or inflatable couches. Plastic materials heat up quickly in the sun and damage the turf we care for, so by choosing more delicate materials, you can help us keep these lawns healthy for everyone to enjoy.
  • Do pack your snacks in reusable containers and thermoses that you can take back home at the end of the day. This will prevent large piles of trash accumulating along lawn borders, water bodies, and even at the trash receptacles themselves. Need ideas? Check out our online shop to see where you can switch to more Park- (and planet-) friendly gear.
Three women enjoying a picnic on blankets at the Meer.

We love to see it! Cloth blankets, lunch boxes, and reusable containers are the way to go when it comes to enjoying Central Park sustainably.

Nurture This Nature

Trees are living species and when they’re damaged, it increases their chances of getting sick or dying. Here are some ways to show our 18,000 trees some love:

  • Walk softly around their roots rather than on top of them, avoiding damage to their bark and branches.
  • Never climb their branches, pick their flowers, or etch into their bark.
  • Give them a friendly hug (our arborists totally understand the impulse) to thank them for cleaning our air, filtering our rain, and offering much-needed shade during the hot summer months.
Looking up two tree trunks to see the Sun through green leafs

The only thing more lovely than this view into a towering ginkgo tree is a Park visitor that helps us keep it healthy. Trees never mind a hug, but be sure to be gentle around their roots, bark, and flowers.

Mind the Fence

Conservancy staff works strategically to set up the Park’s plant life and wildlife for success. Each year, we use (and reuse) miles of metal fencing to protect essential ecosystems found in the Park’s garden beds, root zones around trees, and lawns from heavy foot traffic. Help us help these landscapes flourish by:

  • Honoring the fencing that you see.
  • Using all appropriate exits at the Park’s lawns.
  • Never wading or swimming in the Park’s water bodies.
A thick roll of fencing sits on a lawn, waiting to be unfurled

It takes a lot of work for our Conservancy staff to install fencing around fields, lawns, and landscapes. When you see fencing, know that it’s there for a reason: to protect ecosystems and wildlife. Do your part by not jumping over it, cutting it, or bending it.

A Leash on Life

Central Park has welcomed more dogs than ever since the start of the pandemic. For any newcomers to the Park, as well as seasoned dogwalkers, here are some tips for visiting with your four-legged friends:

  • Keep your pet leashed at all times, unless in an area specifically designated for off-leash hours. Like our fences, we place leash signs throughout the Park to keep visitors and wildlife safe—especially in wooded areas like the Ramble and North Woods.
  • Save the swimming for the beach and keep out of all water bodies. The Park’s water bodies have harmful algal blooms, so it’s in the best interest of you and your dog to never enter them.

Explore our dog guide to learn which spots are always off-limits to dogs, as well as which areas are fair game for a morning game of fetch. And, as if you needed the reminder, please always pick up after your pet.

A fluffy dog accepts the love of its owner amidst the greenery

We love your dog almost as much as you do—especially when she’s leashed! Look out for signs in the Park, as well as our website, to know when and where to leash your pet.

Ration Your Trash

As the sun sets and the lawns close to rest and recover, how can you clean up after your picnic?

  • Carry out any trash that you bring into the Park: While there are more than 700 recycling and trash cans throughout Central Park, on busy days you can help by physically carrying out your trash with you, rather than creating large piles at these receptacles.
  • Go plastic-free: Even better than carrying out your trash? Creating none in the first place. If you pack your picnic in reusable containers, you’ll enjoy your summer outing with a greater peace of mind.

When you go the extra mile to keep the Park clean, you’ll be lending a hand to the hundreds of species of birds, insects, fish, bats, and squirrels that depend on it for survival.

Trash cans pictured full to overflowing

See why we prefer that you carry out? By physically taking your trash with you when you leave the Park, you can prevent piles building up at these receptacles. This is immensely helpful to our staff, and also prevents wildlife from ingesting harmful foods and plastics.

The Park Needs Us

A healthy Central Park means a healthy New York City, and with a little bit of preparation and intentionality, you can enjoy one of the busiest parks in the world while keeping it beautiful, accessible, and thriving for all.

Before your next visit, scan this list, explore our website, and check in with your friends to get on the same stewardship page. Following some of these helpful tips while out in the Park? Take a photo and tag us on social at @CentralParkNYC with #TheParkNeedsUs. The only thing we love seeing more than the smiles of Park visitors is the care they put into their visit.