Administrative History
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At Bandelier, the Park Service did not inherit a physical plant from the Forest Service. Although the concessioner's buildings were adequate, if ramshackle, there was little else in Frijoles Canyon. A small, dilapidated ranger cabin, with a telephone line that hooked into the network of the Forest Service, comprised the extent of Forest Service improvements in the canyon. The only access to the canyon was via a steep trail, preventing the sedentary, the infirm, and the old from visiting the main canyon ruins. To make Bandelier fulfill Frank Pinkley's dream of an entry point into the southwestern national monument group required extensive development.

After the Park Service assumed control at Bandelier, Frank Pinkley began to press for the construction of a physical plant. The only facilities in the monument belonged to the concessioners. Pinkley needed some place to base his operation. Although George and Evelyn Frey ran the Frijoles Canyon Lodge, Pinkley found their facilities inappropriate. From his perspective, the lodge area was too close to Tyuonyi, the community house ruins. The whole canyon floor looked too much like a homestead to Pinkley, with fruit trees, a large garden, chickens and ducks in the canyon, and cattle grazing on the south mesa.

early trail to Talus House
Before the coming of the CCC camp, the few trails in the monument discourage travelers who wanted to inspect the ruins. This photograph of the area including the restored Talus House reveals the condition of the trails in the park prior to 1933.

Pinkley envisioned Bandelier as a prime attraction in the southwestern national monument group. More importantly, he saw it as the mouth of a funnel that would bring visitors to the other southwestern national monuments. As such, the monument required substantial development, the cornerstone of which was a road to the floor of Frijoles Canyon. Automobile accessibility would increase visitation dramatically, giving the agency justification for requesting substantial development funding.

For development purposes, the Park Service acquired Bandelier at precisely the right moment. It came into the Park System in 1932, ahead of the rash of park areas that Executive Order 6166, Franklin D. Roosevelt's measure to streamline the Federal bureaucracy, transferred to the agency. By the time New Deal programs, such as the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), were established, the Park Service, and particularly Pinkley, had specific plans for Bandelier. The Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) program of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) gave the Park Service access to the necessary funding and work power to build administrative and visitor facilities from scratch. The Federal programs supplied funding and labor for the developments of the 1930s.

The most important feature of the development program was the construction of a road into Frijoles Canyon. Without a road to the canyon bottom, Bandelier would remain inaccessible. Although Forest Service officials opposed the idea of a road until the end of the 1920s, late in their tenure, they explored construction possibilities. The threat of local opposition thwarted any plans that developed. [1]

With his vision of Bandelier as a preeminent attraction among the southwestern monuments, Frank Pinkley advocated the construction of the road even before the Park Service assumed jurisdiction of the area. He weathered the opposition of a cadre of Santa Fe residents, to whom he referred as "mud-hut nuts," arguing that the road was a necessary improvement for a park area so close to an important tourist center. "We can't refuse 15,000 visitors admission" he wrote Horace Albright on October 8, 1932, "just because the Spanish didn't use automobiles 300 years ago: it just doesn't make sense." [2]

According to Jesse Nusbaum, it was not only Pinkley's "mud-hut nuts" who opposed the project. Much of the Santa Fe community, including prominent citizens such as Bronson Cutting, the owner of the New Mexican, resisted the idea of a road into the canyon. The Park Service presence was a feature in the volatile political climate of northern New Mexico, and Nusbaum worried that a proposal for a road would create new opposition. As a long-time resident of Santa Fe, his "firm conviction" was that the NPS should wait until there was a permanent ranger in Frijoles Canyon before it proceeded with the road. [3]

Despite resistance in Santa Fe, the NPS decided the road was imperative. Advocating its construction was an easy way to differentiate NPS administration from that of the USFS. "It would be unfortunate, indeed," Acting Director Arthur E. Demaray responded to Nusbaum on November 18, 1932, "if we were to follow a no more vigorous policy [regarding construction of the road] than was practiced by the Forest Service." [4] The road to Frijoles Canyon became a pivotal issue. Without it Bandelier would remain no different than the other Forest Service national monuments. Remote and unimportant, like many of the other national monuments, it would serve little purpose for an agency interested in attracting visitors.

building road to monument
Building the road from the mesa to the canyon was the single most important innovation in Frank Pinkley's development plan for Bandelier. As soon as CCC workers completed the initial trail, the Park Service opened it to visitor travel. Meanwhile, as this photo shows, CCC men continued to improve the road.

During the 1920s, Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright developed the Park Service by providing visitor service and in the early 1930s, the agency closely adhered to their doctrine. Park Service inspections stressed the problems that existing conditions created. The lack of access impeded visitation. According to George Grant, a Park Service photographer who inspected and photographed Bandelier on October 20, 1932, the trail into the canyon was an "actual barrier" for all but the most vigorous travelers. The existing trail discouraged four of every five visitors who approached the park. Many looked over the edge at the trail and abandoned their plans to visit the canyon floor. "The visitor," Grant wrote, "must be able to get his car close to the points of interest." [5]

With a road to the canyon bottom, Bandelier could be as a popular as any park area in the Southwest. The Washington Office of the NPS favored the development of the park and discounted opposition; Demaray told Nusbaum that "the easiest way to get visitors to Bandelier is to build a good road." [6] "Looked at from the standpoint of keeping visitors out of a national monument," Pinkley wrote Hunter Clarkson, the proprietor of the Indian Detours guide service, "the present trail may be considered a complete success, although we could, by putting in a few more steep angles and digging some holes in the trail[,] cut the present four thousand visitors in half." [7] Pinkley's facetious tone indicated his position clearly. In 1933, there were few projects more important to his southwestern national monuments group than the road to Frijoles Canyon.

To mask his true objectives and combat local resistance, Pinkley initially presented the road as a service trail. He stressed the efficacy of the road in letters to CCC and ECW administrators. Without the road, building the structures he sought for the canyon verged on impossibility. It also provided him a convenient way to achieve his goals without arousing the rancor of those who opposed him.

There were a number of possible routes for roads into the canyon. National Park Service Historian Verne E. Chatelain visited Bandelier with George Frey, the concessioner, and looked at the options. The New Mexico state surveyor had laid out one possibility, which had steep grades and was visible from the canyon bottom. Park Service landscape architects did their own road survey. The route the agency proposed was longer, but its grades were less steep and according to Chatelain, the scar it left would be almost invisible from the canyon floor. [8] Despite the increased distance, a road that could not be seen from the canyon floor fit the philosophy of the Park Service. After a number of additional inspections, the longer, more scenic route was approved.

Construction began in November 1933, almost as soon as the CCC camp at the monument opened. On December 9, 1933, the first car went down the unfinished trail, carrying Mrs. Evelyn Frey and Walter G. Atwell, the Park Service engineer who oversaw the project. [9] The road, however, was far from complete. ECW regulations only permitted the construction of a truck trail twelve-feet wide with its funds. It took money from another New Deal agency, the Civil Works Authority (CWA) money and most of 1934 to complete the 22-foot wide trail to the canyon.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006