Big Bend
Administrative History
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CHAPTER 4:
A Dream in Waiting: Promotion of a Land Base for Big Bend National Park, 1936

Momentum towards establishment of Big Bend National Park, so apparent in the critical year of 1935, led park promoters and NPS officials to expect more good fortune in their quest to acquire over 1,200 square miles of land. With congressional approval in hand, the park service and Brewster County chamber of commerce anticipated in 1936 a year of intense coverage to gain public support and state legislative authorization in the biennial session of 1937. Then the surprising veto that year by Governor James Allred of state house speaker Coke Stevenson's park purchase bill stalled the ambitions of NPS and local park champions alike. From this ensued a laborious process to generate private donations of money and lands that challenged all who had dreamed in 1935 of creation of Texas's first national park.

Throughout 1935, Everett Townsend had traversed the haunting landscape of the Big Bend country to study land ownership patterns and potential costs for state acquisition. He had discovered much about the status of property in the area, and in January of that year had warned NPS and state officials that the process would not be easy. In addition to the 150,000 acres owned outright by Texas, the Lone Star state, said Townsend, "has an equity in probably 60 or 65% of the remainder of the lands that will be within the boundary designated by the National Park Service." Along with these lands came state claims to the mineral rights beneath them. Townsend explained that "these lands were sold to the Original Grantees on terms which permitted the payment of 1/40 of the principal at the time of purchase." Then the new owners faced "deferred payments to be extended over a period of forty years, bearing interest at the rate of 3%." Very few of the owners of these lands had paid in full, and "in most cases none of the principal has been paid and the individual owes to the State the entire 39/40." Because of the lack of concern by state and local officials about the condition of ownership, said Townsend, "in times past these lands have frequently changed hands between individuals by the simple process of the purchaser paying the seller a bonus per acre and assuming the obligations due the State." [1]

Knowing the land and its owners as he did, and conscious of Texas's lack of familiarity with federal land law, Townsend recommended to the state and NPS that an elaborate system of surveying and purchasing be implemented. He wrote that "an appropriation of a sum sufficient to pay the bonus price to the owners of State Land and to buy the patented land (35 or 40% of the total acreage) should be asked of the legislature." In addition, "an appropriation to compensate the State Public School Fund for the surface and mineral rights to all State or school lands should be asked also of the legislature." Townsend once more dismissed claims of mineral wealth in the Big Bend country, as "the whole area has been prospected for more than fifty years and there seems little likelihood of any considerable minerals (either hard or petroleum) being found within the region." Further, said Townsend, "it is a well known fact that minerals can be more safely stored underneath the ground in their native elements than by any other method devised by man." He also noted that "the markets for most minerals are glutted today, because of over production." Townsend thus sought to "reaffirm that if any [minerals] do exist there they will be securely stored to be scientifically developed should the need ever arise for them." A similar case could be made for terminating leases for cattle grazing. "The poor grazing quality on the surface," he reported, meant that "it will take seventy five to one hundred acres per cow or horse." Big Bend ranchers also suffered from the fact that "there are many 640 acre tracts that will not support one animal through the year." With the NPS spending "vast sums in the development of the Park area," the "additional consumption of gasoline in Texas" by motoring tourists, and the potential for visitation to an international park someday, Lone Star legislators would do well to accept the gift extended by the U.S. Congress and prepare for land acquisition soon. [2]

Following upon his recommendations, Townsend by 1936 had developed a classification system for the 643,115 acres of privately owned land in the Big Bend area. If a landowner had managed to secure good pasture and water, he or she could anticipate earning anywhere from one dollar to ten dollars per acre in a sale to the state. These ranchers and farmers also were the most conscientious in their payment of property taxes. These "Class I" lands comprised 286,094 acres, or 44 percent of the private property needed for the park. Townsend's "Class II" lands were "owned by non-residents in quantities of two surveys or more each." All of these 228,832 acres (or 35 percent of the park area) were "unimproved and minus water with rare exceptions." Townsend also noted that "several years taxes are due on some of the patented land," while "much of the Public School land is far in arrears for interest due on unpaid principals and for State, County, and School taxes." These lands, estimated Townsend, would be worth only one dollar to $1.50 per acre. Finally, his "Class III" acreage (128,189 acres, or 20 percent of the park) was "owned by non-residents in quantities of less than two surveys each." Like Class II lands, these properties had little water and few improvements. In this category Townsend discovered that "the greater number of patented surveys and some of the Public Schools [lands] have been sub-divided and many individuals own tracts of less than one acre each." Predicted Townsend: "It will be more difficult to contact these numerous owners and make purchases." Thus he recommended that the state "place a higher valuation" on this property ($2.50 per acre). He encouraged such generosity, even though "some of it [the land] will probably be forfeited (sale cancelled) for non-payment of the interest to the School Fund." Finally, Townsend cautioned that "careful resurveying of the whole region may result in reducing the totals by about 12,000 to 13,000 acres." [3]

Upon completion of his work in 1936, Townsend had learned that the NPS and Texas State Parks Board would need to examine some 1,179 land surveys, amounting to 788,683.75 acres. Absentee owners claimed the largest individual parcels, with the Texas and Pacific Railway in control of 41,600 acres. Of ranchers living on their lands in the Big Bend country, Townsend identified Homer Wilson in the Chisos Basin as the largest single owner (at 30,149.5 acres). The Cartledge family, possessors of three parcels in the Castolon/Santa Elena area, owned 30,817 acres jointly. Other local ranchers with spreads in excess of 10,000 acres were Boye Babb (10,891 acres), Sam R. Nail (11,842.5 acres), W.E. Simpson (14,080 acres), J.J. Willis (25,232 acres), and a ranch owned by "Herring and Johnson" (23,040 acres). In all, Townsend named 82 individual or family owners of property residing in the future Big Bend National Park (or having what Townsend called "local ties), of whom thirteen (or one-sixth) were Hispanic. The most prosperous Hispanic rancher was R.A. Serna, with 3,840 acres, while a woman named Juana Hernandez of Terlingua was reported to have 1,280 acres (two sections), the use of which Townsend identified as "farm and home." Of note also was the fact that none of the thirteen Hispanic landowners were delinquent in their tax payments, while the Odessa auto dealer Willis owed back taxes on all of his properties. [4]

Big Bend's future depended most heavily, its sponsors thought, upon the Texas state legislature to appropriate the monies necessary for the direct purchase of the acreage surveyed by Everett Townsend. But the delay between legislative sessions meant that the year 1936 would not see action on any park bill. Instead, promoters engaged in a series of publicity ventures designed to inform Lone Star residents of the value of Big Bend to their future. In March 1936, Herbert Maier wrote to Conrad Wirth to seek advice about "the value of motion picture and lecture publicity" for the park. Maier knew of earlier efforts to film in the Big Bend area, and recommended that the park service "have a man make the Chambers of Commerce, Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, churches and schools in the State, especially the more thickly populated part." In so doing, said the ECW regional officer, ""public opinion would swing in favor of acquisition and the latter would be greatly hastened." [5]

Stimulating Maier's interest in media productions on Big Bend was the visit in March by George Grant, chief photographer for the NPS. Grant traveled throughout the future park, and crossed into Mexico with Everett Townsend to document the wonders of the Fronteriza Mountains. The NPS hoped to use Grant's images in an upcoming display at the Texas Centennial festivities in Dallas, and with a presentation that Maier and other park service officials planned in Mexico City later that year. "Since the Mexican area has never been photographed," Maier told Wirth, "I think it will be a very fine thing if Grant can bring back a complete collection." One reason for the necessity to keep Grant in the field was that "[W.D.] Smithers, the photographer at Alpine, who has such a wonderful and the only collection of Big Bend pictures, has had difficulty with the State Parks Board, and is leaving Alpine." Smithers' unhappiness led him to "lock up his negatives," denying their use to the NPS "nor to anyone else." Grant considered this latter decision by Smithers as tragic, as he informed Maier: "I think this Big Bend project is the most important thing we [the park service] have on the docket at the present time." He found "the Big Bend country to be as big as Yellowstone [National Park] and even more varied." The ruggedness of the terrain, and the isolation of the CCC camp, led Grant to complain that "the way I am working at present . . . is not practical to do any justice to this area." This he attributed to "dust storms, rain, wind and many other conditions that make good photography impossible at this time of the year." The NPS photographer sought "encouragement from both you [Maier] and Wirth," as "under present conditions here it seems too much of a waste of time to stay here indefinitely." [6]

Townsend's service to George Grant, along with his earlier work in land title research, led Maier to ask the former Texas Ranger to travel to Austin upon returning from the photographic survey to "undertake an investigation of the present land ownership status of the various Texas park areas in which the CCC has undertaken, has completed, or is undertaking developments." Maier nominated Townsend for this task because Washington officials of the NPS had learned of the displeasure expressed by Pat Neff, chairman of the Texas State Parks Board, who in Maier's words "is especially sensitive when any subject involving honest dealing is concerned." The parks board "no longer has an attorney," Maier reported, and "since the investigation is up to us the only man who could undertake it without serious conflict is Mr. Townsend." The departure of D.C. Colp as parks board director had been acrimonious, and "you can realize that Mr. Colp left that sort of thing, undoubtedly, in a very questionable state." Besides not having legal counsel, the board lacked funds "for carrying on lengthy title investigations." Thus Maier had advised Townsend "to go into the investigation of each area to only a reasonable degree so that the National Park Service will be reasonably protected if questions regarding this matter arise." [7]

Townsend's research of all Texas CCC property acquisitions dramatized the complexity of politics, economics, and history that affected Big Bend. He discovered that "there is no certificate filed by the State Land Commissioner showing transfer of all school land within that area." Townsend thus advised Colonel R.O. Whiteaker, chief engineer for the state parks board, that "such certificate should be requested from the Land Commissioner or in lieu thereof, some other acknowledgement of the transfer of these lands." He had learned that Whiteaker "had prepared two hundred and thirteen (213) deeds of such character covering the same number of tax suits and sales to the State, but these deeds have not been signed by the [Brewster County] sheriff." Townsend believed that "the rather high costs . . . of completing these deeds has deterred further progress in that direction." He hoped that his friendships in Alpine would allow him to identify a notary public who would process all of the deeds "for a very nominal fee [$500]." Townsend's only concern was "whether or not the law will permit these two officials to charge less than the statutory fee for such services." [8]

The realities of Brewster County land acquisition continued to engage the attention of NPS officials as they planned for the 1937 Texas legislative session. J.W. Gilmer, owner of some 60,000 acres of land near the proposed park entrance at Persimmon Gap, wrote in May 1936 to Maier to offer the services of his "Big Bend Abstract Company." Gilmer claimed to have worked in the "land business" for a quarter-century, the past eight years of that in Alpine. "My knowledge of the park area," said Gilmer, "and having been interested in the park [ever] since it originated, and knowing the big job it will be to secure these lands, have prompted me in making application to your office for the job of assisting in the work." Even as Gilmer expressed optimism for the future of Big Bend, Maier and his NPS colleagues would read in the Dallas Morning News of May 18 the headline: "Chance of Big Bend Park Being National Domain Is Dwindling." Correspondent Alonzo Wasson reported that "those in a position to size up the prospect have become pessimistic with respect to the Big Bend Park project." Wasson cited "the large number of private ownerships within the boundaries of the school lands that were dedicated as a State park by act of the Legislature." Instead of trading their lands to the TSPB, local ranchers in possession of 200,000 acres "have announced they would part with their holdings only for cash." The Morning News claimed that "these owners are seized of a strong hunch that their lands are rich in minerals, and have graduated their prices by their high faiths." Given this obstructionism, wrote Wasson, "there seems no possibility that a solid block of such area as the Federal Government requires for establishing a national park can be pieced together." [9]

More troubling to Wasson, however, was "the recent dictum" of NPS director Arno B. Cammerer "that the gift if it was to be made acceptable to the Federal Government, would have to be freed from the operation of that provision of the act of the Legislature which, in offering the surface, reserved all minerals that might be found to underlie it." Wasson could find no language in the 1935 congressional edict authorizing Big Bend National Park that mandated such a concession, "but it is assumed that Cammerer speaks by the book in saying that the title to the surface must convey ownership also of whatever mineral wealth may be hidden beneath." The Lone Star state had sold school lands in the past "without reservation of the mineral estate," said the Morning News reporter, "and nearly every such sale sowed the seed of regret." Wasson could not imagine that the Texas lawmakers, "great and genuine as is the desire to see the Big Bend become a national park, could be persuaded to deed away a mineral prospect as promising as that which the geologists have declared is there presented." Since "there is no possibility that any Legislature . . . would comply with the terms set forth by Cammerer," Wasson predicted that "it looks as though the Big Bend Park is destined to remain a State park." Unless the NPS relented in their demands, "the Federal Government will have to content itself with the surface without all of anything there may be beneath." This meant that the 4,000 acres set aside for the CCC camp "will not measure up to the proportions of a national park, but . . . will make a sizable State park." [10]

Wasson's article sparked much debate among Big Bend sponsors in west Texas, the state capital at Austin, and within the park service. Horace Morelock of Sul Ross State Teachers College asked Maier how to present the NPS's version of the Big Bend land-acquisition story to several audiences that he would address. The "Highway 67 Association" had asked the Sul Ross president to speak on the importance of Big Bend National Park to their plans for a Dallas-to-Presidio route. "I am wondering if Wasson's article will be helpful or hurtful," asked Morelock, and he wanted advice on "what I should say to this group with references to his conclusions." More important to Morelock was his service on the executive board of the Texas State Teachers Association. "A good many people seem to think," Morelock informed Maier, "that the State Teachers Association of Texas will be the only stumbling block in the way to getting a deed to the school land." Morelock had asked the teachers board to come to the Big Bend area to "make a personal investigation as to the intrinsic value of school land." For his presentation to the executive committee in Fort Worth on June 6, Morelock had hoped to emphasize how "the money to be derived from the sale of gasoline . . . which would go to the school fund would be worth much more to the public schools of Texas than they would ever get out of the land." Yet the Morning News article had highlighted the way in which "the mineral rights have crept into the picture." As rumors spread that Governor Allred might ask for a special (or "call") session of the legislature, one that could address the land questions for Big Bend, Morelock wanted the NPS to assuage the doubts of the teachers executive board, with a personal appearance by Maier the most effective means to accomplish this. [11]

Echoing the sentiments of Morelock was Everett Townsend, who saw the Wasson piece as a critical juncture in negotiations with the state legislature. The long-time champion of a national park in Brewster County asked Maier to attend the Fort Worth convention of the state teachers association because the Morning News had its facts wrong about mineral deposits in the park area. "After a careful survey," said Townsend, "the National Park Commission carefully excluded all known mineral lands from the designated area." Further, "the region embraced within the Park area has been diligently prospected by scientists as well as the 'grub staker' and nothing of any value has ever been found therein." Townsend conceded that "there is one exception to this last statement," as "a small quicksilver mine was operated for a few years at the north end of the Mariscal Mountain." Its prospectors found "no great sight of ore," and the site "has long been abandoned," even though "a thousand holes have dug all around it." Townsend concluded that "the more than fifty years of intensive prospecting has developed a thorough knowledge of all of the formations of the region," and "no one of scientific understanding expects minerals of value to be found there." Then Townsend got to the heart of the matter of school lands and mineral rights. "It has been my pleasure and my pain," he told Maier, "to be lined up with and against the school teachers of Texas." He knew "their weight as friends and as foes." Townsend advised Maier that "I want 'em on our side in this coming contest," as "with their help we will have little trouble in obtaining our objective." Once the teachers saw that "the whole program is so obviously in their favor they will not object to the ceding of a few hundred thousand acres of purely desert land." To sweeten the deal for the Texas school teachers, Townsend suggested that "as a great out-of-doors University preserved and cared for by the Government, [Big Bend] will be of much greater value to the schools than under the present status." [12]

The next step for local promoters of Big Bend was to contact the state teachers association to express their concerns over the mineral rights issue in general, and the Morning News story in particular. Morelock wrote to Lewis B. Cooper, director of the association's research department, to determine that organization's sentiments. "There are several angles to this whole situation," the Sul Ross president acknowledged, and he hoped to "present them from an impartial point of view." Like Townsend, Morelock saw as critical an awareness of the teachers group "of returns on [the] tourist trade to the Chisos Mountains in the event an International Park is established there." He referred to data generated by the New Mexico State Highway Department, which in 1935 had invested $30,000 to advertise tourism to the "Sunshine State." "Their tourist trade," said Morelock, "during that year increased to the extent of $11,000,000.00." In response to this windfall of visitation to the historic and natural wonders of New Mexico, that state would "spend this year $60,000.00 because of what they realized on the other investment." Morelock knew that "there is the feeling that since the University of Texas realized such returns on its oil lands in this section [east Texas], public school people are hoping they might get the same returns from the minerals of the Chisos Mountains." He asked Cooper to invite "the State geologists of Texas and the Government geologists who have made a study of this matter" to speak to the convention. In so doing, the teachers could gain "such information on State minerals as will best help them to proceed intelligently and in the best interests of the public schools." Morelock saw only good things resulting from such a thoughtful approach, as teachers would "realize [that] an International Park within [Texas's] borders . . . would produce for the public schools a revenue for all time to come." [13]

The level of anxiety displayed by the Big Bend sponsors prompted Herbert Maier to respond to Morelock's entreaties, counseling patience rather than panic. He apologized for declining their invitation to travel to Fort Worth for the teachers' convention, noting that "it was necessary that I be at the CCC Exhibit building at [the Texas Centennial in Dallas] that day, pulling it together for the opening." More importantly, Maier "felt reluctant to speak on two or three of the subjects suggested in Mr. Townsend's letter." From his wider angle of vision at the NPS, Maier recognized that "of course some opposition is to be expected before the Big Bend area finally becomes a National park." It was "a perfectly natural condition," as "very few areas, if any, have come into the National Park System without opposition from certain sources." Morelock also needed to know, said Maier, that "during the period preceding acquisition, the National Park Service may act in an advisory capacity, but it is not considered the best policy for field officers to take too active a hand in promotion." In regards to the issue of mineral rights, Maier warned once again (despite the Morning News story) that "the Federal Government cannot accept any land for National Park purposes unless both the surface and sub-surface rights are turned over in fee simple." He agreed with Morelock and Townsend that "it is not at all likely that minerals of any considerable economic value will ever be found in the area as outlined." Yet "we cannot expect this matter of the mineral rights to keep from creeping into the picture." He advised Morelock that "it is just as well for it to come to the front at the start, since it will probably prove to be the major stumbling block." Whatever the anxieties of the local interests, Maier declared: "I have no doubt in my mind but that it can be overcome." [14]

Maier's advice notwithstanding, Morelock and Townsend spent much of that summer appealing to state and local officials to resolve the mineral rights questions threatening land acquisition at Big Bend. Townsend informed Maier of his intentions to contact Coke Stevenson, speaker of the state house of representatives from the Hill Country town of Junction, and "probably the most [eminent] lawyer who is well versed in all of the laws pertaining to the School Lands of Texas." Morelock for his part appealed to L.A. Woods, superintendent of education for the state of Texas, to join a party visiting Big Bend that included "the President of the State Board of Education, . . . and the President of the State Teachers Association." This group could "inspect the ground in person, and be ready to make a report on this subject at the next Legislature." Ben F. Tisinger, the teachers' association president, had informed Morelock "that he planned to spend a part of his vacation in this section." If Woods could join the group, "the Chamber of Commerce here will be happy to take all three of you down to the Chisos Mountains for a personal inspection of the park area." [15]

The work of Morelock and Townsend to change attitudes about the public school lands met with some success in July 1936. Maier contacted NPS officials in Washington with word that "one of the citizens in west Texas who is interested in the Big Bend area may be in a position to donate approximately 2000 acres within the proposed park boundaries to the Federal Government." Such a gesture, said Maier, would publicize "the idea that this will not only start the 'ball rolling,' but will result in an advantage to the National Park Service in that the latter can say that some land has already been donated for park purposes." Maier's hope was that "further donations may and probably would be made to supplement this acreage," and "quite a nucleus may be on hand in a short time, not so much for practical purposes, as for psychological effect." Maier conceded that "the Department of the Interior would probably not accept a fraction of the proposed area." Thus "the suggestion . . . might be made that the citizen in question should deed the land to the state now for future national park purposes, if and when the total acreage has been acquired and is ready for transfer." Yet the ECW regional director saw problems connected to the controversy over public school lands, and feared "that the donation of this acreage to the state in this case would be 'buried' and the action would have little salient effect." [16]

A breakthrough in the mineral rights controversy came in July 1936, when Maier wrote to Conrad Wirth about a decision by the Texas state attorney general. "It has now been definitely decided," said Maier, "that the School Fund can release its mineral rights but some reimbursement will have to be made." Maier was not sure "whether 25 [cents] per acre will be regarded as a gift, and nothing less than say a dollar per acre can be regarded as a sale." He expected the attorney general to resolve this detail soon, and thus proceeded to the more pressing question of legislation for the acquisition program. "I had Mr. Townsend in the office the past two days," Maier told Wirth, and "we went over the whole thing." Above all else, the two men agreed that "the State Representatives and Senators must be lined up in favor of the issuing of warrants for the purchase of the land." When they decided upon an amount to request of the Lone Star lawmakers, Maier estimated that "offhand I would says that only a million and a half dollars may be needed to handle the whole thing." The ECW's regional director then approached Wirth's superior, NPS director Arno Cammerer, for advice on taking a more aggressive and public stance on the land-acquisition matter. "I have been continually urged to appear before certain groups," he told Cammerer, "to explain to them how the School Fund will actually benefit by relinquishing its rights to the land." Such groups as the state teachers convention "have desired me to make rather definite statements on the approximate amount of money which the Federal Government will spend eventually on the development of the area." Maier knew that "for an employee of the National Park Service to do this may be out of line," yet he also believed that "it can be handled discreetly and without embarrassment." Thus Maier asked Cammerer to "be given permission to accept certain invitations where this seems advisable, and to work with them." He warned the NPS director that "it is quite possible that some criticism may result due to the strong emphasis on States Rights in Texas." Nonetheless, "the U.S. Forest Service recently has had considerable land in East Texas turned over to the Government for National Forest purposes." This indicated to Maier that NPS policy might need to change, as Texas slowly came to appreciate the benefits brought to the Lone Star state by federal land management agencies. [17]

Further advancing the cause of publicity for Big Bend was completion in August of a Texas travelogue, made by M.S. Leopold of the NPS's Motion Picture Production Section. Leopold sent an advance copy to Morelock and Townsend for their review, and planned to present the motion picture at the Texas Centennial in Dallas. Morelock found somewhat disturbing the decision by Leopold to cut out "the college scenes (including pioneer dance in Outdoor Theater, horseback riding, tennis and bowling, also a panorama of the town [of Alpine] taken from the grandstand of the Athletic Field)." Morelock considered these essential to any film about the region, as "Alpine is the open gateway to the Big Bend National Park, and the people of this section are not only expected to do all the work but to furnish practically all the money necessary to get this project before the people of Texas." In particular, "the college has taken an active part in this program," said the Sul Ross president, "and has spent both money and time to the end that the people of Texas might know about the wonderful scenery in the Chisos Mountains." Sul Ross also had "organized groups of students in attendance upon our Summer School from all parts of Texas for week-end trips down into the Chisos Mountains," so that "they might go home and tell their people about the advantages of this area for a national park." Claimed Morelock: "Naturally, when the college, as a part of this set-up, is excluded from the motion picture, it is difficult for us to maintain our enthusiasm." Especially galling to Morelock was the insistence of universities and colleges in Texas to be included in the NPS movie. "Of course," said Morelock, "the other institutions would like to capitalize through this picture [on] the opportunity to get before the people of Texas, but they have no valid claim on being a part of the Big Bend National Park." [18]

For Townsend, the Big Bend movie had other problems beyond the affront to Sul Ross and Alpine. "The film is very good," he told Maier, "but does not contain enough of the Park Area to attract the desired attention." Townsend had traveled with Leopold and the NPS film crew, and recalled that "we shot from the top of Boquillas Canyon, around the two Boquillas villages on both sides of the river, at Johnson's [Ranch], in Pine Canyon and Blue Creek." Unfortunately, said Townsend, "none of these are in the reel." He also remembered that "some good stuff was taken from the South Rim, which does not appear in the picture." Then he criticized rather sharply "the psychological effect [that] the showing of 'so much oil' may have upon the minds of our educational people." Local park sponsors had begun "a crusade to educate the school teachers of Texas to the idea of dedicating a great domain of school land together with all mineral rights, to the public for recreational purposes." Yet Leopold's story began with "an epitome of the vast oil resource of the State, scattered from one end of it to the other," and continued in that vein throughout the film. Townsend recognized that "it was correct to show the Gulf [Sulphur] Company's holdings and give them credit and praise for the production of the picture." Instead of a brief glimpse of Big Bend, however, Leopold should "call attention to [Texas's] lack of National Parks and then swing Colorado, Arizona, or California (one of these [that] have the most parks) onto the screen, show its park sites, and some of the vast crowds who flock to those places." Townsend had come to this realization after screening the film to the Alpine Lion's Club, whom the NPS had asked to critique the story line before release of some 40 to 50 reels of the film throughout Texas. Townsend told club members that "my objection to this picture is that it is made for the purpose of selling our Park to the very people who now have rich incomes from the oil industry." He found it problematic that the NPS would "go ahead and devote the first half of the reel to showing the resources of their great wealth," then asking them "to give half a million acres of undeveloped land" to the federal government for a park. [19]

Where Morelock's entreaties for scenes of his college campus failed to move the NPS, Townsend's more trenchant criticism led Herbert Maier to ask the Interior department's division of motion pictures to change the storyline and edit the footage. Maier informed Ellsworth C. Dent of the motion picture division that "it is too short, and furthermore, the first half of the reel is given over entirely to the benefits derived from exploitation of natural resources in Texas." The ECW regional director noted that "it is the opinion all around that it is most unfortunate that a reel designed to advocate the perpetuation of a primitive area is tied in as the tail to a kite to about a thousand feet of film depicting [oil development]." Maier could only conclude: "The whole thing, you will agree, is incongruous." While the NPS had little choice but to recognize the patronage of the Gulf Sulphur Company in the film's production, "the thing will by no means do for the need we hoped it might fill, since it may defeat our purpose." Maier hoped that Dent could prepare instead "a single reel . . . consisting entirely of Big Bend scenic subject matter." This version should eliminate "all of the Sulphur and helium material," as well as "the State Park subject." Maier noted that "the editor apparently intended to lead up to the Big Bend subject, but we feel that this film should step out immediately with a bang as to Big Bend country rather than that its final effectiveness should be softened by a gradual build-up." Target audiences for the Big Bend film included "Rotary, Kiwanis and [Lions] Clubs, church organizations, schools, etc." Equally important was a screening to take place that fall at the gathering in El Paso of Mexican and U.S. officials planning the international peace park. [20]


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