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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These relatively nearby wonderlands where people are finding themselves in the highest forms of recreation have been increased and opened to fuller use by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They offer the best there is in the field of recreation—nature itself. Wherever one may live, and whatever his tastes in recreation may be, he can fulfill his requirements for outdoor play in a state park or recreation area.

— National Park Service, The CCC and Its Contributions to a Nation-wide State Park Recreational Program, 1937

In the 1930s, the National Park Service's programs for master planning, rustic design, and landscape naturalization extended to the development and improvement of state, county, and metropolitan parks. Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided the National Park Service with its first opportunity to give direct assistance to states in developing scenic and recreational areas. This assistance took the form of the supervision of conservation activities carried out by each CCC camp and the dissemination of information about park planning, the construction of park structures, and the design of recreational facilities. Supervision occurred through state park inspectors, who were employed by the National Park Service and who worked directly for the ECW district officer. These inspectors traveled to the parks to oversee and make recommendations on the master plans and the design and construction of park roads, trails, buildings, and other facilities. Technical specialists employed by the park service, including landscape architects, architects, and engineers, were assigned to each CCC camp and closely supervised the work of the CCC foremen and enrollees. The specialists developed plans and drawings under the direction of the state park inspectors. Each camp was headed by a superintendent and had several foremen who directly supervised the CCC enrollees carrying out the National Park Service plans.

As public recreation took on major importance in the 1930s, the National Park Service assumed leadership in developing state parks, surveying the recreational resources nationwide, and encouraging state recreational plans. In states having no state parks, such as Virginia and Tennessee, state parks and park systems were developed with the aid of the park service and other federal programs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Resettlement Administration. With the increasing emphasis on national recreational planning, National Park Service designers found themselves designing facilities for swimming, golf, fishing, skiing, boating, and other outdoor activities.

The relationship with state parks was not new. In 1921, National Park Service Director Stephen Mather had convened the first meeting of what became the National Conference on State Parks, and park service officials had been involved in meetings with state park officials throughout the 1920s. Mather and Harold Ickes, who became the secretary of the interior in 1933, were both among the founding members of the Friends of Our Native Landscape founded by Jens Jensen in the Midwest in 1913. In his annual reports, Mather traced the development and progress of the state parks movement. By 1933, there was a strong union among the oldest and more established state park systems, including California, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania.

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