by Jonathan Ceci, ASLA
At the ASLA 2018 Annual Meeting and EXPO, members of the Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN) were treated to an interview with Lane Addonizio, Affil. ASLA, and Chris Nolan, FASLA, of the Central Park Conservancy. The two shared experiences from their decades-long stewardship of America’s First Park, a calling that often involves negotiating a delicate balance between preservation and change.
Two days prior, I had attended their session on the challenges and rewards of improving accessibility in Central Park, Thinking Inclusive: Strategies and Perspectives on Accessibility from Central Park’s Experience. I found it one of the more inspiring sessions of the conference because Chris and Lane tied the matter of access back to the Park founders’ democratic vision. Lane shared this quote from The Third Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park (January 1860):
The primary purpose of the Park is to provide the best practicable means of healthful recreation, for the inhabitants of the city, of all classes. It should have an aspect of spaciousness and tranquility, with variety and intricacy of arrangement, thereby affording the most agreeable contrast to the confinement, bustle, and monotonous street-division of the city…The Park is intended to furnish healthful recreation for the poor and the rich, the young and the old, the vicious and the virtuous, so far as each can partake therein without infringing upon the rights of others, and no further.
In their interview during the PPN meeting, Chris and Lane referred back to this founding mission and explained that restrained adaptation has always been essential to fulfilling the Park’s historic mission of remaining broadly accessible to the public.