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America's National Park Service: The Critical Documents
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Table of Contents


The Early Years,

Defining The System,

The New Deal Years,

The Poverty Years,

Questions of
Resource Management

The Ecological Revolution,

Transformation and

A System Threatened,

Summaries of
Lengthy Documents

About the Editor

America's National Park System:
The Critical Documents
Chapter 2:
Defining the System 1919-1932
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Office Order No. 228 Park Planning, 1931

April 3, 1931

There is inclosed [sic] a copy of the Employment Stabilization Act of 1931, Public No. 616, approved February 10, 1931. Its purpose is to provide for the advance planning and regulated construction of public works, for the stabilization of industry, and for aiding in the prevention of unemployment during periods of business depression.

This requirement of law for advance planning makes necessary the restatement of certain fundamental facts and policies. The national parks and national monuments have been set aside for the enjoyment and the benefit of the people, and the National Park Service is enjoined by organic law creating the Service to administer them in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. Therefore, in all planning and construction of physical improvements, to permit their present use by visitors and at the same time not impair the areas so as to interfere with their enjoyment by future generations, the strictest landscape control and supervision will be required.

The Superintendent is responsible for the proper development of his park or monument. He initiates projects, is responsible for estimates of appropriations and the expenditure of construction funds, and for the proper completion of the work within the limitation of such funds.

The professional services of Field Headquarters are available to assist him in the planning, the designing and the construction of his park development work, and are to be fully and completely utilized.


In order to properly coordinate all phases of planning, the park development outline, or five-year program, which was begun in 1926 shall be brought to date as of October 1, 1931, and hereafter shall be known as the Park Development Plan. This plan will give the general picture of the park or monument showing the circulation system (roads and trails), the communication systems (telephone and telegraph), wilderness areas and developed areas. More detailed plans of developed areas (villages, tourist centers, etc.) will be required to properly portray these special features. These plans being general guides will naturally be constantly in a state of development and shall hereafter be brought up-to-date and made a matter of record annually. Their success depends upon the proper collaboration of study and effect on the part of the Park Superintendent, the Chief Landscape Architect, the Chief Engineer, and the Sanitary Engineer. The resulting plan will not be the work of any one but will include the work of all. Since park development is primarily a Landscape development, it shall be the duty of the Landscape Division to collaborate with the Park Superintendent in the preparation of the Park Development Plan. Exact copies must be made for the park or monument, Field Headquarters and the Washington Office. Revised copies shall be made and furnished each office annually.

Accompanying each Park Development Plan there shall be prepared a written outline of the items deemed necessary in the development of the park or monument. Exact copies must be made for the park or monument, Field Headquarters and the Washington Office. Revised copies shall be made and furnished each office annually. As this outline furnishes information for the preparation of the Park Development Plan, it too will be constantly in a state of progression and will be the clearing house of proposed items. It classifies the development of the park or monument as to areas and these areas into units according to use.

A general outline or classification to be used as a guide is given below. It will naturally vary in detail in different parks and monuments.


  1. Circulation—
    1. Road System:
      1. General Road System Plan. (Outlined on Park Topographic Map.)
      2. Project Plans. (Plan for each unit in road system.)
    2. Trail System:
      1. General Trail System. (Outlined on Park Topographic Map.)
      2. Project. (A plan or field report for each unit.)
  2. Wilderness (Sacred Areas) Areas. (Outlined on Park Topographic Map or Park General Plan.)
    1. Wilderness Areas—large areas to be generally protected as undeveloped wilderness areas.
    2. Sacred Areas—small areas to be protected against all development for the protection of a special natural feature—i.e., 1/8 mile radius around Old Faithful Geyser. Similar areas around important water falls—a special group of trees or geological feature, etc.
    3. Research Reserves.
  3. Developed Areas. Including Building Group units such as villages or tourist centers. Each should have all or part of the following according to the use of the area:
    1. Circulation System:
      1. Roadways.
      2. Parking Areas.
      3. Bridle Paths.
      4. Footpaths.
    2. Public Utilities. (General Layouts by Sanitary Engr. or Civil Engr.)
      1. Water System.
      2. Sewerage System.
      3. Garbage Disposal.
      4. Telephone System.
      5. Power System.
      6. Other Utilities (each should have a number).
    3. Government Building Units:
      1. Administrative Group. Administration Building, Museum, Post Office, etc.
      2. Residential Group. All Employee Housing.
      3. Utility Group.
        Shops, Equipment Housing Barns, etc., possibly Laborers Mess and Bunkhouses.
    4. Tourist Facilities:
      1. Hotel Areas.
      2. Lodge Areas.
      3. Housekeeping Camp Areas.
      4. Government Auto Camp Areas.
      5. Retail Areas (only in larger parks).
    5. Public Utility Operators Non-Tourist Units:
      1. Administration Area (often in hotel and not a distinct unit).
      2. Residential Area (Residences and Dormitories).
      3. Utility Area (Warehouses, Shops, etc.)
      4. Transportation System Area (usually is part of Utility Area).
    6. Outlying Units (minor developed areas):
      1. Ranger Station.
      2. Road Camp.
      3. Other facilities (give separate number to each).

The Park Development Plan and written Development Outline or Classification are the working tools to coordinate the thought and effort of the various offices engaged on planning and construction work. They are general guides and are not binding as to details. The Park Superintendent will find them of value in selecting items for the estimates, being able to select items from a list that is constantly being studied instead of making a list entirely from memory at the time he is asked for estimates.

The Chief Landscape Architect can obtain information as to size, purposes, and the relation of the unit to other facilities in preparing sketches and working drawings. The Chief Engineer and Sanitary Engineer likewise can get data and information as to the relation of their projects to other work.

The Bureau of Public Roads work can also be related to other work.

The Public Utility Operators' developments can likewise be coordinated with all Government activities.


The estimates for 1933 will be submitted in their usual form and constitute the first year of the six year program. The attached sample form will be used in submitting the items for the subsequent five years. The law requires that these programs be resubmitted annually, therefore when the 1933 appropriations have become law and the 1934 estimates are submitted, items will be selected from the five year advance program for the current year list and new items will be added to the five year list. The revised six year program shall be submitted each year with the final estimates of appropriations.

Sketches and estimates should be prepared in advance as rapidly as it is feasible to accomplish this and ultimately it is hoped that sketch plans and estimates will have been prepared for all items in the six year program. As a development plan is studied, the necessary revisions can be noted from time to time for the annual revision. The Park Development Plan and the written Outline or Classification are important, as they allow the proper method of studying the full development of the entire park and each developed area within the park. This is the best point of view to approach the study of a development.

The selection of items for the current year's estimate[s] and the five year list is a recapitulation of the same items in the order of their priority and it is a relatively simple problem to select this priority list from the items in the park development outline which are arranged according to locality.

In the 1934 estimates, the superintendents will be required to have a clearance from the Chief Landscape Architect on all items that are included in his estimates. The study of these items should begin immediately and be carried on through the construction season. It is best that the items to go in the coming year's estimates be approved during the construction season while the Landscape Architects are in the field.


The attached sample form is to be followed in supplying the information required, except that the "Dates" for approval of plans, shown in upper right-hand margin, are not to be inserted.*

Each project deemed necessary in properly administering and developing the park (or monument) as contemplated in this act should be listed in the order of its priority, and the project number should be preceded by the letters E. S. (Employment Stabilization). The E. S. project number is assigned temporarily to identify it until the project is authorized for construction at which time it will be given a project number in the customary manner. The name assigned should be descriptive of the project. The nature of the work to be performed should be set forth on separate letter-size sheets, writing lengthwise across the paper. While the descriptive matter should be concisely stated, do not sacrifice needed information. If a unit of road, give the type, length, width, cost, months during which construction can be carried on, and the same character of information for bridges, retaining walls, tunnels, and other prominent features.

Under Section 8 of the Act (c) and (e) it will later on be necessary to:

Prepare a year in advance plans for prompt commencement and carrying out an expanded program at any time, which is to include expansion in organization and detailed construction plans as well as plans for the acquisition of sites, all of which information is to be assembled and made available to the Employment Stabilization Board and the Bureau of the Budget, upon request.

Section 8 (d) provides that such programs, plans, and estimates for the six-year period shall be submitted to the Board and to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget. Therefore, the data required on the form (Employment Stabilization) is to be submitted annually to the Washington Office in quadruplicate.



Historic Files, Office of Park Planning and Special Studies, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.

* Ed. Note: For reasons of space, the form has not been included.

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