Shenandoah National Park
Skyline Drive was among the first mountain road building projects undertaken by the NPS in the East. The concept of a scenic ridge drive was suggested by the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee in 1924, when it noted that "the greatest single feature [of the proposed park] . . . is a possible sky-line drive along the mountain top, following a continuous ridge and looking down westerly on the Shenandoah Valley . . . and also commanding a View of the Piedmont Plain stretching easterly to the Washington Monument."
The committee recognized the proliferation of the automobile and its increasing use as a recreational vehicle. By 1929, over 23 million passenger cars were registered in the U.S., making the automobile one of the most significant social and technological changes of the period. Federal, state and local officials realized that the proposed Shenandoah National Park would, by necessity, be a park for the automobile tourist. As Charles E. Peterson, head of the NPS Eastern Division, Branch of Plans and Design in the 1930s, recalled, "[t]he overall idea was that motorists should be able to drive out of Washington for a Sunday's mountain experience and get back home by night."
Construction of Skyline Drive predated the dedication of the park by five years. Work began in 1931, when President Hoover (a staunch advocate of the road) authorized drought relief funds to finance the task. From 1933 until its completion in 1939, the job continued as a Depression Era work relief project under the Roosevelt Administration's New Deal. President Roosevelt followed the progress in Shenandoah as avidly as his predecessor had, ensuring that the Public Works Administration (PWA), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) allocated funds and manpower for construction, beautification, and development of the road and park.
Skyline Drive was an instant success. Each of the road's three sections openedin 1934 (Central District), 1936 (North District) and 1939 (South District)to enormous numbers of motorists.
As a result of the drive's poplarity, newly established Shenandoah led all National Park units in yearly visitation by 1937, becoming the first national park to attract one million visitors.
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