Administrative History
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When the Park Service assumed responsibility for Bandelier National Monument in 1932, the development of visitor-use facilities played a significant role. Two major periods of development defined Bandelier. The initial phase, during which the major administrative and visitor-use facilities were constructed, lasted from 1933 until the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp closed in 1941. The second period began with the Mission 66 program for Bandelier, which to led to major construction during the 1960s. In the 1980s, planning for the physical plant at the monument remained under the influence of the Mission 66 plan.

The three master plans designed for Bandelier revealed the evolution of Park Service attitudes towards development and accommodation of visitors. The initial plan, dating from 1934, was an unrestricted program of development. Its primary focus was to create facilities that allowed the monument to become an integral part of the southwestern national monuments group. Centered around the building of an entrance road into the Frijoles Canyon, the plan created a physical plant which made the site into a pre-eminent tourist attraction.

The master plan of 1953, revised under the auspices of the Mission 66 program, sought to alleviate the impact of the Los Alamos community upon the monument. Local residents came to see Bandelier as a "city park," causing serious overcrowding on the canyon floor. The master plan was a belated response to existing conditions, designed to address the conditions of the 1950s. Its emphasis on acquisition and development revealed a preoccupation with providing a buffer zone for the resources of the monument. Visitation at the site, however, quickly outgrew this plan.

After being caught short during the 1950s and early 1960s, Park Service planners tried to anticipate growth before it occurred. The master plan of 1977, in the works for a decade before its approval, planned for an expected increase in visitation. Confronted with the imminent opening of the Cochiti Dam recreation facility, Park Service planners took preventative action. Rather than wait for the impact, as they had in 1940s, NPS officials created a plan to facilitate what they expected to be the impact on the monument.

The Park Service and the powerful environmental community clashed over the proposal as the development ran afoul of another NPS program—the legally mandated evaluation of larger-than-5000-acre roadless areas for wilderness status. Wilderness areas were highly desirable to the environmental constituency. When the NPS recommended no wilderness for Bandelier, local and national organizations attacked the agency, claiming its stance would cause the degradation of the Bandelier back country. Although at the time the proposals seemed antithetical, in reality careful management made development of the facilities at the park and wilderness preservation into complimentary objectives.

Ironically, by the late 1980s, the expected growth of the Cochiti Lake region, the catalyst for the controversy, had not occurred. In 1986, the implementation of the proposals that exasperated local and regional environmental groups appeared to be a decade in the future. The Park Service took a more cautious approach to future plans of accommodating visitors at Bandelier. Agency focus shifted from trying to entice visitors to the site to providing visitors that arrived with a quality experience.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006