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Two Years after Storm Felled 500 Trees, Central Park Completes Restoration

By Amy Zimmer | August 16, 2011 7:02am | Updated on August 16, 2011 7:37am

MANHATTAN — The havoc of this week's record-breaking rains was nowhere near as damaging to Central Park as the tornado-like storm that tore through Manhattan two years ago, felling more than 500 trees..

After the storm on Aug. 18, 2009 devastated nearly 300 acres, the Central Park Conservancy embarked on a project to restore the "historic character" of the park's northern end.

"We never imagined that a single event would transform the North End overnight," Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, said in a statement.

"We were devastated by the loss of so many significant trees, but we restored the land in a way that honors the intent of its designers and prepares for its future."

Blonsky said the conservancy wanted to reverse the clock and recreate this part of the park to its pre-1950s state, before it "lost its most unique characteristics" of "subtle transitions from meadows to forest" because of lack of ongoing maintenance.

The conservancy wanted to reclaim the diversity of the landscape and restore the woodland around the Great Hill by removing invasive species, doing additional pruning to open the tree canopy and introducing a greater variety of plantings.

The 2009 storm basically flattened the heavily wooded southern and eastern slopes of the Great Hill. The conservancy removed the stumps of destroyed trees and prepared the soil for replanting, which occurred over three planting seasons.

The conservancy planted a temporary canopy of short-lived species at the nearby Ravine, part of the park's 90-acre North Woods at 102nd Street. They also planted seedlings to grow into a more permanent canopy. 

The park raised $1 million from Chase Bank for the project along with $1.1 million from 3,000 individuals.

The conservancy is currently working on its "Met to the Meer Campaign," which includes restoring the landscapes between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Harlem Meer.