On-line Book

Book Cover
Presenting Nature








Design Ethic Origins

Design Policy & Process

Western Field Office

Park Planning

Decade of Expansion

State Parks

Appendix A

Appendix B


Presenting Nature:
The Historic Landscape Design of the National Park Service, 1916-1942
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In any area in which the preservation of the beauty of Nature is a primary purpose, every modification of the natural landscape, whether it be by construction of a road or erection of a shelter, is an intrusion. A basic objective of those who are entrusted with the development of such areas for the human uses for which they are established, is, it seems to me, to hold these intrusions to a minimum and so to design them that, besides being attractive to look upon, they appear to belong to and be a part of their settings.

— Arno B. Cammerer, Park Structures and Facilities, 1935

Beginning in the spring of 1933, New Deal programs made possible the development and improvement of national parks at an unprecedented speed. In the early 1930s, several parks, including the proposed Shenandoah park, were already receiving aid through a fledgling program of emergency appropriations instituted as the nation's concern for economic stabilization grew. But the programs implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to boost employment in early 1933 provided the impetus for a massive expansion of park development, from the construction of roads and administrative facilities to forest preservation, landscape naturalization, roadside cleanup, and campground construction. Above all, the programs of the 1930s put into operation and proved the value of the master planning process that had been spearheaded by the Landscape Division under Thomas Vint.

The two major programs to affect the development of the national parks were (1) federal projects funded by emergency appropriations and administered through the Public Works Administration (PWA) and (2) Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The Public Works Administration channeled special allotments to fund capital improvements in the national parks, such as roads and buildings. The work itself, including the clearing, grading, and surfacing of roads and the construction of bridges, culverts, and guardrails, was carried out according to National Park Service standards and designs with skilled labor provided by private contractors. ECW, on the other hand, was an interagency effort involving the Departments of Labor, Army, Interior, and Agriculture and administered by an interagency advisory board. From the beginning, the program was intended as a temporary emergency measure and required reauthorization periodically. In 1937, the program became an independent agency and was extended for several more years. At this time, the program was officially renamed the Civilian Conservation Corps and all references to Emergency Conservation Work were dropped.

ECW was carried out by camps of CCC enrollees assigned to each park; it consisted largely of forest protection, cleanup, landscape naturalization, trail construction, village improvements, roadside planting, and the construction of small park structures such as trail bridges. It later included the construction of larger projects. All conservation work was under the direct supervision of the resident landscape architect for each park, while other park specialists, such as naturalists and foresters, directed work related to their programs. The CCC technical staff—architects, landscape architects, and engineers—were actually employed by the National Park Service through ECW funds.

In addition to this influx of funds and manpower, the National Park Service acquired responsibility for a number of new sites in this period. Several other administrative actions and relief programs had turned over new areas such as monuments, historic sites, parkways, and national seashores to the park service. Under Executive Order 6166 of June 10, 1933, the monuments and public grounds of the nation's capital, an assortment of national monuments previously under the U.S. Forest Service, and many battlefields and military cemeteries previously under the War Department were brought under the stewardship and management of the National Park Service. Moreover, in 1934, in cooperation with the new Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the National Park Service assumed leadership for nationwide recreational planning and began to develop model parks called recreational demonstration areas on land considered submarginal for agriculture. Once developed, these parks were to be turned over to state park systems. This role was strengthened by subsequent legislation solidifying a cooperative partnership of national and state park officials begun initially through the National Park Service's supervision of ECW in state parks. In addition, grants through the Works Progress Administration, established in 1935, added substantially to facilities in both national and state parks.

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