Restoration of the Ramble

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 in the heart of the Park.

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 human-made 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.

Crossing the Gill, Before and After

Concrete bridge built in the 1930s that replaced an original stone crossing over the Gill; stone bridge after reconstruction

Ramble boulders

Workers disassembled boulders below the concrete bridge, which were later used to reconstruct the historic stone crossing

The completed work included rebuilding aging paths and infrastructure to support continued stewardship and increasing use. The horticultural and ecological restoration in connection with this work 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 new rustic bridge across Azalea Pond

A newly constructed rustic bridge at Azalea Pond

Overlooking the Gil

Gill overlook, after reconstruction

The next phase of our work to restore the Ramble will be the reconstruction of two open-air shelters that once existed at high points in the landscape.

Sunlight streams through the spring-green landscape of the Gill.

The Gill, after restoration

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