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 manmade 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 includes rebuilding aging paths and infrastructure to support continued stewardship and increasing use; the horticultural and ecological restoration in connection with this work is 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 final phase of our work to restore the Ramble will be the restoration of its rustic structures and the reconstruction of three open-air shelters that once existed at high points in the landscape. This will provide more shaded seating in the area so visitors can rest and take in scenic views.

Only one of four rustic shelters that historically existed in the Ramble still remains today; the shelters were designed to harmonize with the landscape while providing places for visitors to rest and appreciate the views of surrounding scenery.

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

The Gill, after restoration

The existing summerhouse on the west side of the Ramble was last restored by the Conservancy in the early 1980s, and closely resembles the original structure with the exception of the shingle roof (added in the 1950s). It will be restored according to its original design, replacing the existing with rustic, unmilled timbers. The shelter is constructed of red cedar, as was typical of the Park’s more substantial rustic structures, and will be restored with the same.

In addition, three lost timber rustic shelters will be reconstructed according to their original designs, complete with railings, benches, and features with elaborate infill work. We’re excited to have them return to the Park:

  • The Belvedere Summerhouse: an elaborate rustic shelter that was located at the northwest corner of the Ramble, near the Belvedere
  • The Log Shelter: a shaded seat that was located at a high point on the east side of the Ramble, just north of the location of Loeb Boathouse today
  • The Umbrella Structure: a shaded seat that was situated on a rock outcrop at the south end of the Ramble, overlooking Bow Bridge.

Work on shelters will be the final phase of the comprehensive, multi-year effort to renew and sustain the Ramble.

Old photo of the original Ramble Summerhouse

Historic photo of the original Ramble Summerhouse

Rendering of a summerhouse on a scenic overlook

Rendering of the rustic summerhouse that historically existed on a scenic overlook in the Ramble

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