Iconic Grounds: Central Park

This article is part of a series featuring premier facilities across North America that partner with Toro for equipment and support.

Located in the heart of America’s largest city is the world’s most famous place to relax and play: New York’s Central Park. The grounds cover 843 acres, and approximately 30% of that is turf grass.

With more than 42 million visitors each year, how does the grounds team protect the park and maintain its beauty? For this Iconic Grounds profile, we asked Central Park’s turf care manager, Zach Holm, to explain his team’s approach to grounds care.

High Expectations
To New Yorkers, Central Park is their backyard, their playground, their picnic spot, their place to jog, their getaway from city pressures and much more. To tourists, Central Park is a must-see dream spot that they’ve viewed in countless movies, photos and concert videos. All come to the park expecting pristine grounds and beautiful sights.

“We have high expectations ourselves,” said Holm, “and the high expectations of visitors adds a little more pressure. But that also makes it more rewarding and satisfying when we see people enjoying the grounds and smiling at the sights.”

Teamwork Is Essential
The Central Park Conservancy manages the care of the park, and meeting the high expectations of visitors requires considerable planning and teamwork. “We have eight people on the turf team,” notes Holm, “and that’s just the beginning. There are also teams working on the playgrounds and other landscaping. It’s a big park with a lot of different features, so it takes a lot of planning and coordination to maintain the grounds.”

The team’s approach is to classify different park areas by the intensity of maintenance required. “For instance,” explains Holm, “the really famous areas like the Great Lawn and Sheep Meadow and others see heavy foot traffic and use. Along with mowing, the turf care team has an ongoing routine for seeding, aeration and irrigation.”

A Matter Of Time
Many of Central Park’s 42 million annual visitors do more than walk around. They’re using sports fields, running to catch Frisbees, walking pets, stretching out on blankets and more. All that activity not only puts stress on the grounds, but as Holm notes, it also gives the grounds team a lot to work around.

“We have two things that help us manage the schedule. The first is a staggered opening, where parts of the lawn open at 9:00am and other parts at 11:00am. But by far the biggest aspect is the willingness of our amazing crew to work odd hours. I usually arrive before 6:30am, and they’ve already been out mowing for quite a while because they know they have limited time to get everything done. If there’s a concert on the Great Lawn, or when the Marathon comes through, the crew may stay until two or three o’clock in the morning to do cleanup. It’s an outstanding team.”  

The crew uses Toro Groundmaster® mowers and other Toro equipment to manage the park’s grounds. “The Park has a long relationship with Toro,” adds Holm.

Expecting The Unexpected
No matter how famous a site is, the best planning in the world can’t account for everything. “New York is prone to extreme weather,” explains Holm. “This summer, New York City broke its rainfall record within an hour.” In the remnants of Hurricane Ida—a storm that rolled over to the east coast from Louisiana—the Park saw a staggering 3.15 inches of rain in one hour, smashing a record set just 11 days earlier by Hurricane Henri during the City’s Homecoming concert on the Great Lawn. “That kind of rainfall really impacts the grounds and trails and leads to repair work that can require days instead of the few hours of maintenance originally planned,” adds Holm.

Still, Holm is quick to say that the detailed planning and crazy hours are worth it. “It’s rewarding to see so many people enjoying the lawns, the sports fields, and seeing the ‘wow’ on their faces when the park lives up to all they imagined.”

Watch For More Iconic Grounds Profiles
Curious where our next Iconic Grounds article will take us? Follow @ToroGrounds on Twitter for updates and look for the next issue of Grounds For Success.