National Capital Parks
A History
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PARKS OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL, 1933-1951 (continued)


Interpretation has become an important phase of park work in the National Capital. It is one thing for the visitor to see historical monuments and areas of natural beauty. It is something different to have trained historians and naturalists explain the historical significance and natural history of these monuments and areas. Interpretation, an important part of all National Park Service areas, plays a vital role in filling the minds of young and old with a real appreciation of our National parks as areas of historical importance and natural beauty.

An intensive program of interpretation is carried on by both the Naturalist and Historical divisions. The field of natural history interpretation features guided trips to park areas; a school assembly program, which initiates the young to fascinating stories of living creatures, plants, and geological features found in the Washington area; an adult nature leadership course; a junior naturalist training course; nature consultation at day camps; and a popular and informative lecture series. The historical program of interpretation includes on-the-scene interpretation at the National Monuments, Memorials, and Museums of National Capital Parks; historical walks to the various memorials and historic sites in Washington; a school assembly program instilling the youth with a greater knowledge and appreciation of the parks and of American history; a special out-of-town school program featuring historical talks at the Lincoln Museum and the showing of an orientation film on the National Capital; and conducted historical tours for various foreign visitors to the United States for the State Department.

Park naturalist giving a talk to visitors
A Naturalist At Work


Planning occupies a place of prime importance in the National Capital Parks. From the time of the McMillan Park Commission of 1901, park planning has received more and more attention. The beauty and attractiveness of the parks results in great part because of the long range planning, which preceded the development of particular park areas. Today, the Planning division prepares all advance planning programs in the National Capital Parks. In the all important work of planning, this division cooperates and works with the other divisions of the office. The Division also collaborates with the Bureau of Public Roads on major roads and parkways. It coordinates all phases of planning and development with the District of Columbia, National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and other Federal Government agencies. The work of the Planning Division has become extremely complex. Whenever any project is planned in the National Capital Parks, the Planning division must contact numerous organizations and agencies, which might be directly or indirectly concerned with the project.

Rehabilitation of Small Parks

Since 1933, many outstanding developments have been effected in the National Capital Parks. Careful planning has played a significant role in these developments, as it is playing a vital role in projects for future development. One of the early important achievements in park development was a large-scale rehabilitation of smaller parks. At the turn of the twentieth century many of the small reservations were not parks in the modern sense. They were rather formal gardens done in the old world manner and featuring horticultural displays. They were beautiful areas and added a distinctiveness to the Capital city. The rapid population growth and increase in park use brought about by the first World War soon made their maintenance and protection impractical as well as expensive. In bringing about the transformation of these smaller areas, work was undertaken under PWA and WPA authorization in the beginning of the depression years. The project involved the redesigning of three of the major small parks — Lafayette, Franklin, and Folger, and more than 100 circles, triangles, and squares. Its completion in 1938 marked one of the major accomplishments of the National Capital Parks during the Emergency period. In achieving the rehabilitation of these small parks, circles, and triangles in the National Capital, park officials recaptured the charm of the old Washington and took an important step toward the perpetuation of that charm for the enjoyment of future generations. [126]

Park naturalist giving a talk to visitors
A Historical Walk

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Last Updated: 31-Jul-2003