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Pope John Paul II spoke here, Paul Simon sang, and Pocahontas -- the movie -- played. But for the past two years, Central Park's Great Lawn has been closed, worn nearly bare from overuse. Passers-by were bombarded by the sound of bulldozers, labyrinthine detours and warnings to keep out.

Now, after the biggest landscape project in the park's history, the Great Lawn reopened today -- reseeded and resodded, its irrigation and drainage systems replaced in an $18.2 million makeover.

The 12-acre lawn is actually just a fraction of the 55 acres in the center of the park that have been redesigned with some 230,000 trees and other plants, 18,500 feet of improved pathways, 2,400 feet of new benches, 275 pop-up sprinklers and 260 cast-iron lights.

Among the crowds the Great Lawn has attracted were 100,000 for the 1995 premiere of Disney's "Pocahontas," a papal Mass the same year attracting 120,000 people and Simon's 1991 concert with a whopping 600,000 people.

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