Located farthest south of all the national parks of the United States is the Platt National Park with its picturesque Travertine Creek, made up of a succession of murmuring waterfalls.
Just to sit on the banks of this pretty stream and listen to the music of the songs it sings will soothe into the land of dreams the sufferer from insomnia, and make the tired business man forget his cares. But this is only one of the assets of this little park. Its varied assortment of mineral and fresh water springs make up a "water cure" for the tired, worn-out body that can not be excelled in any park in the whole country.
In the city of Sulphur, near by, the sulphur water is administered in the form of baths, thus greatly facilitating the cures. One of the crying needs in the park is the establishment of a number of bathhouses in which the waters from the natural sulphur springs should be used. That supplied the bathhouses now existing in the city is obtained from artesian wells. Any bathhouses which might be erected inside the park should be owned and controlled by the Government, but if it is determined that it is against the policy of the United States to erect bathhouses in any of the parks, some form of agreement should be entered into with individuals who would be willing to operate these bathhouses under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior.
The fresh-water springs constitute the source of the Travertine Creek and are 98 per cent pure. One of them bursts out of a group of solid rocks in a hillside, while the others boil up in a bed of sand. These are called the Antelope and Buffalo Springs, because of a legend handed down by the Indians to the effect that antelope and buffalo formerly came down in droves from the surrounding hillsides to drink from these springs.
Up to the present date the appropriations for this park have been insufficient to make any marked improvements within it, the principal expenditures having been made in the construction of bridges that were indispensable and in the building of roads and trails that were absolutely essential for the accommodation of visitors. Some necessary repairs have been made to springs, park residences, pavilions, etc., but, as a whole, the park is still in a rough and undeveloped state.
In my opinion the first requisite toward the improvement of the park is the employment of an engineer to make a survey and establish grades. He should lay off roads and trails and furnish blue prints and specifications of the work to be done preparatory to landscape gardening and permanent improvements, so that all expenditures made would be of a permanent nature.
The park is sadly in need of an administration building that would comport with the dignity of a national park of our country. The one now in use was originally constructed by two old Germans as a summer camping house. It is cheaply constructed of rock and lime and sand cement and is loosely put together, which makes it available as a harbor for rodents, thus rendering it unfit for an office both because of its being unhealthy to occupants and dangerous to records. The building is very inconveniently located for an office, and a new and convenient location should be selected and a suitable and sightly administration building be erected.
In the latter part of 1908 Mr. R. L. Rogers, of the Forest Service, made an examination of the park with a view to ascertaining the practicability of reforesting certain portions and early the following year made a complete report covering his findings, but to date very little has been accomplished along this line. The former superintendent, Mr. A. R. Greene, planted a number of young trees along the roadsides in the park in the spring of 1909, but the extreme drought that visited the section of the country in which the park is located during that year killed all but one of the trees that were planted before they could get a start. During the past summer about 70 young trees were planted, all of which are still living, with exception of about 8 or 10.
This matter has recently been taken up with the district forester at Albuquerque, N. Mex., with a view to supplying the park with trees of suitable variety for this locality, and an allotment has been obtained for the purpose of setting them out in parts of the park where they are likely to thrive.
In connection with the system of reforesting the park and the eventual laying off of garden spots for ornamental purposes I have worked out a plan for irrigation which would be of great benefit during years when droughts occur. The system is to bring the water down from Lake Placid by gravitation to East and West Central Parks and other portions of the park. Such a system would save expense in obtaining and replanting young trees and shrubs, which would otherwise die after having been set out before they could adapt themselves to the new soil and obtain sufficient growth to enable them to live through hot, dry weather.
Owing to a lack of system in enforcing the city ordinance regarding loose live stock in the city of Sulphur, horses, cattle, and other domestic live stock often run at large and stray into the park, where they do considerable damage. During the entire life of the park it has required considerable time of the rangers to keep stock driven out of it. Even this availed but little, as nothing could be done to prevent them from coming back. The former superintendent had a fence built around the park hoping to relieve the situation and leave the rangers free for other duties, but the stock continue to come into the park, breaking down the fence in order to get into the better pasture, which requires continued repairs to fencing and considerable difficulty in getting the stock out of the fenced inclosures. The owners of the stock seem not at all concerned over the situation, and I have thought it would be a good plan to establish a pound inside the park, in which all animals found therein might be impounded, requiring the owners to pay a 50-cent fee, as well as all expenses incident to the taking up and detention of such animals, including the cost of feeding and caring for the same. Such a plan would probably abate the nuisance, allowing the rangers time for other duties, and lessening the probability of destruction to young trees and shrubs. This should provide for the sale of unclaimed stock.
In conclusion, I might add that the Platt National Park is one of two or three parks available as a resort during the entire year, and one of about two within reach of the middle classes of the South and Southwest, and as such it should be promptly developed and made attractive for their pleasure and comfort. The park is especially endowed by the Creator for the inspiration and uplift of all who are privileged to behold its beauties, and no man possessing the proper appreciation of the beauties of nature can visit it and go away without feeling mentally, morally, and physically improved, even should the curative value of the waters be not considered, but contemplating the marvelous cures that have been effected by the use of the waters that abound in this park leads me to hope that the benefits that are to be derived from them may not for much longer be hindered or impaired for lack of proper advertisement, which can be effected in only one way, namely, its appropriate development and improvement, thus rendering it attractive and agreeable to the visitors who annually seek rest and recreation within its boundaries.