Capitol Reef
Cultural Landscape Report
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Just as Fruita attracted prehistoric peoples and proved to be an ideal site for later settlement by Mormons, this lush river valley offered the National Park Service a well-suited location for development to meets its management and visitor needs. In 1938 the "Development Outline for Capital Reef National Monument" stated:

Monument headquarters developments logically belong at Fruita. The desirable land being in private ownership, a complete development plan. . . may not be prepared until the land is purchased or otherwise acquired. [1]

Initial proposed developments included improving the road and trail systems, constructing an administrative headquarters (a ranger station, museum, water, and sewage system), as well as general developments (surveys and mapping, fencing, posting, and telephone line). Plans for the museum were soon abandoned due to lack of funding. Some of the other goals were accomplished with the labor of the CCC (as described in the Landscape History section); others were not met for many years.

By the time the CCC program was terminated in 1942, the monument still lacked electricity, telephones, and water and sewage systems. Without these services, the CCC-built stone ranger station was nonfunctioning. In 1943, the only tourist facilities available were the rental cabins offered by Doc Inglesby and William and Dicey Chesnut: "very poor shacks without any modern conveniences." [2] Several of the local residents also rented horses to tourists for trips around the monument. The only park-owned property in the valley consisted of the former home of Alma Chesnut (the Holt house and associated structures) and its associated 67 acres of land, acquired in 1942. Park management, while recognizing its need for water and land, thought that these objectives could be met by purchasing small amounts without displacing the local community. The 1943 development outline for the monument also suggested, "The type of physical developments [in Fruita] should conform to the early Mormon type of architecture (stone)." [3]

Due to lack of funding, no lands could be acquired nor developments take place during the 1940s. Garkane Power Company constructed a power line across the monument in 1948 when local residents agreed to pay for electrical service to their residences. [4] Superintendent Charles Smith wrote, "This modern facility will surely add greatly to the comfort and convenience of people living in the area. It will materially help us to have commercial power when funds are made available to develop Capitol Reef National Monument." A modest appropriation of $5,000 in 1950 provided caretaker Kelly with salary and allowed for limited development to occur (completion of the ranger station and a nearby campground). Mission 66 provided the most significant stimulus for park development at Capitol Reef during the 1960s, as well as the rationale for acquiring private lands. The Master Plan of 1959 provided for water, sewage and irrigation systems, equipment storage and utility buildings, a visitor center, employee residences, a 50-site campground, construction of a through highway (new State Highway 24), and improvements to the old roads and trails. [5] Most new monument construction and development took place under the direction of Superintendent William Krueger (April 1959-December 1965), as described earlier in the Landscape History section. Early plans called for locating the visitor center at the site of the Capitol Reef Lodge (now the Neils Johnson Orchard).

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, little value appeared to be attached to the orchards and local history in park management documents. [6] The monument was created primarily for its geologic and archeological features, and historical resources were only recognized in the 1960s in planning documents as being worthy of preservation and interpretation. In the 1966 Master Plan the significance of the Fruita schoolhouse was the first building to be recognized:

In order to preserve the early pioneer atmosphere, the old schoolhouse and portions of fruit orchards are retained and maintained. . . care of the historic orchards is handled through special use permit which allow harvest in exchange for care, watering and replacement. [7]

The plan also called for developments to "be carefully planned so as to enhance rather than detract from the scenic values," and emphasized that it was "desirable to retain some of the orchards and the irrigated lands in order to maintain the historic character of the 'oasis in the desert'." In addition to preserving portions of the historic scene, such an approach would "also provide a pleasant setting for visitor-use facilities. including overnight accommodations." [8] Only certain (unspecified) orchards, however, were expected to be preserved, as the master plan called for significant expansion of campground areas, from 53 to 230 sites. In addition to campground loops A and B, which were constructed during this period, plans and drawings called for an additional five campgrounds (loops C, E, and F) to be located to the south of loop B. Had the plan been implemented, it would have virtually wiped out all agricultural use of lands south of the Gifford Farm. [9]

Under Superintendent Krueger, the plan advocated continuation of orchard operation and maintenance by special use permit,

. . . as the most economical means of perpetuating the fruit orchard scene created by the early pioneer in this area. It also retains good public relations. . . where residents take pride in this orchard area which we recently have acquired from private owners. [10]

The Interpretive Prospectus (1964) noted that "local [Mormon] history is of interest," and that "their landmarks are the orchards, the cultivated fields, and the houses and log school at Fruita." [11] The report recommended using the "Reef Road" (old State Route 24) as the principle interpretive device, paving it using minimum design standards. Additional recommendations included,

capitalizing upon the existing atmosphere created by the Mormon pioneers at Fruita through their more than fifty years of open ditch irrigation. Retain, so far as possible, their cultivated fields, orchards and certain buildings. [12]

In the 1970s, further thought was given by management to interpretation of historic life in Fruita. The "Fruita Living Community Management Plan," believed to have been prepared by Gerald Hoddenbach in the 1970s, proposed creating a living history experience in the park. [13] The detailed plan called for interpreting historic structures, home sites of past Fruita residents, cultural vegetation (orchards, vineyards, individual trees, such as the "mail tree" and "Brigham Young" walnut tree), rock inscriptions, and irrigation ditches. The report recommended that certain orchards be maintained by "non-mechanized means in order to properly present a historically accurate atmosphere." It also called for the reintroduction of farm animals (horses, cows, sheep, chickens, goats, honey bees, donkeys, oxen) and nonnative (exotic) plants when necessary to enhance the historic scene. The livestock was to be owned and/or maintained by NPS employees residing in Fruita. The plan also suggested that orchards be named after early residents and that signage be erected to identify individual orchards, fields, and pastures.

The increasing recognition of Fruita's agricultural landscape and the need to effectively manage it led to the development of three significant documents in the 1970s and 1980s: an operating plan (Interpretation and the Management of Change in the Cultural Landscape, 1985), an agricultural area management plan (Historic Agricultural Area Management Plan for Capitol Reef National Park, 1979), and an orchard management plan (Capitol Reef National Park Orchard Management Plan, 1988). A strong public reaction against the park's removal of 3.5 acres of fruit trees from the old Mulford orchard during the 1970s led to the park's decision to maintain the remaining number of trees. Other planning documents in the 1980s reflected increasing concern about visual intrusions on the historic setting, encouraging screening of visitor center and maintenance areas. [14] The 1982 General Management Plan sustained the concept of preservation and care of the Fruita orchards both as a historic scene and as a unique public recreational activity. Other planning documents (1984 cultural and natural resources management plans, 1989 Statement for Management) echoed the importance of the cultural landscape ("historic scene") and stressed the need for a plan to guide its management.


1 "Development Outline for Capitol Reef National Monument," March 1, 1938. Record Group 79, Cont. #63180, Box 2, File CR600-01, Federal Records Center, Denver, CO.

2 "Development Outline for Capitol Reef National Monument," January 1943. Record Group 79, Cont. #63180, Box 2, File CR600-01.1, Federal Records Center, Denver, CO.

3 Ibid., 9.

4 Record Group 79, Cont. #63181, Box 3, File CR660.01, Federal Records Center, Denver, CO. Residents were charged a fee of $100 per year for 5 years plus a minimum service charge of $2.70 a month by Garkane Power Co.

5 Master Plan for Capitol Reef National Monument, 1959. Record Group 79, Cont. #SB202684, Box 1, File D-18, Federal Records Center, Denver, CO.

6 The report entitled "Mission 66 for Capitol Reef National Monument," dated late 1956, identified only geological and archeological features as significant. The document makes no references to orchards nor agricultural use of the valley. No history of Mormon settlement and/or occupation between 1880 and 1937 is included in the "Early History" section of the report. It may have been written by Charles Kelly, who held little regard for Mormons.

7 Master Plan for Capitol Reef National Monument, 1966. Park files.

8 Ibid.

9 Drawing NM-CR 3005, Headquarters Vicinity, June 6, 1962, part of CARE Master Plan. Denver Service Center's Technical Information Center, Denver, CO.

10 Master Plan, 1965 draft. Park files.

11 Interpretive Prospectus for Capitol Reef National Monument, 1964, 3. NPS, Rocky Mountain Region, Denver, CO.

12 Ibid., 5.

13 A copy of this report was found included in the park's orchard maintenance notebook that Kent Jackson rescued from the 1980s flood. Park archives.

14 Environmental Impact Statement, General Management Plan, 1982. Park files.

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Last Updated: 01-Apr-2003