In Central Park, Physical Activity is Overrated

Running. Bicycling. Soccer-playing. Frisbee-tossing. Popular activities in most parks, but in Manhattan's biggest -- Central Park -- New Yorkers aren't eager to take up activity so much as to relax alone and nap.

The Central Park Conservancy has issued a new report showing that 85 percent of all activity in Central Park is passive. And most of the eight to nine million people who visit the park each year (who, by the way, were mainly from Manhattan) say they prefer to come alone.

Some of the park-goers' complaints, according to the Wall Street Journal: 3.6 percent of visitors cited "people" as their least favorite part of Central Park; 5.8 percent were turned off by bikers and dirty bathrooms or other maintenance issues; and crowds (8.4 percent) were more unpopular than cars (8 percent).

More than four million people walk dogs in the park each year, compared to the 1.1 million who bicycle in the park.

When it comes to sports park-goers do like to play, only 47,000 people play basketball in Central Park each year, compared with nearly 200,000 who compete in soccer. But most people play something else entirely, with more than 500,000 visitors each year participating in a team sport that is neither soccer nor baseball nor softball nor basketball (hmm -- any guesses?).

"It is possible to discern a particular kind of New Yorker from the survey; someone slightly prickly, a bit of a loner, and resolutely contemplative, the sort of person who prefers 'thinking' (2.23 million) to virtually any physical activity outside of walking," says the WSJ.

The survey was conducted by more than 350 volunteers and Conservancy staff between July 2008 and May 2009 in what's called the most "systemic effort" to record and analyze visitors since 1873, when gatekeepers meticulously recorded every person and leaving the Park, says WSJ.

The survey found the number of park visitors has about tripled in the past 40 years, today attracting 37 to 38 million visits annually -- although those trips are made by only eight to nine million people, including 1.8 million who walk through on their commutes.

The survey is being used to develop tours and programs that will "encourage and expand use of the Park's northern end."

Do you visit Central Park often? What kinds of activities do you like to do there?

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