On-line Book

A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem of the United States





Supplemental Foreword


Recreational Habits and Needs

Aspects of Recreational Planning

Present Public Outdoor Recreational Facilities




A Park and Recreational Land Plan

A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem of the United States
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Point Lobos State Park
Point Lobos State Park, California

Chapter IV: Administration

PARK AND RECREATION ADMINISTRATION is construed to include all those means and methods by which park and recreation policies are established and properties are selected, planned, developed, operated, and maintained. The essential elements of it are as follows:

1. Organization.
2. Planning and development.
3. Operation and maintenance.
4. Organization and encouragement of use.
5. Personnel.
6. The budget.
7. Public relations.
8. Interagency coordination and cooperation.
U.S. map


The basic features of any public administrative organization are normally prescribed by legislative enactment or charter. It is perhaps needless to say that for all the wide variations to be found in National, State, and local park administrative organizations, the principal objective is to provide instrumentalities through which the whole administrative task may be performed efficiently and economically and which will be reasonably responsive to the desires of the public. Our examination of the organization phase of the subject of administration proposes to proceed from an analysis of the machinery and the manner of its functioning, of what is probably the most elaborate and diversified park administrative organization in America—the National Park Service—and to ascertain, as impartially as possible, to what extent its machinery and methods are adaptable to the requirements of State and local park administration, and to what extent the different nature of their problems requires variation from its pattern.

The National Park Service. Of all the many agencies, National, State, and local, which administer lands used for recreation, the National Park Service administers a greater extent of lands set aside purely for that purpose than any other. Its administrative problems embrace all, or virtually all, of those found by other recreational agencies. Without having to be partisan about it, or to assert that its administrative machinery represents near perfection for its purpose, it is reasonable here to examine that machinery and the reasons for the existence of its various parts, and to determine to what degree its organization and procedure meet the requirements of its responsibilities and to what extent it may be adaptable to the requirements of other agencies whose chief concern is likewise the management acquisition, development, and operation of recreational areas, whatever their special character may be.

The National Park Service is a bureau of a Department which, while known as the Interior Department, is increasingly becoming, in fact if not in name, the Conservation Department of the Federal Government. Associated with the Service in the Interior Department are such other bureaus as the Fish and Wildlife Service, Grazing Service, Mines, Reclamation, and Geological Survey, each of which is importantly concerned with conservation in one phase or another. Thus there is in the Federal Government a relationship, within a single Department, with a group which, though lacking forestry, is in most respects analogous to that found in the conservation department or department of natural resources type of administration now established in many States.

Although new activities in connection with the CCC, ERA, and PWA have brought into the Service organization during the past seven years many employees without civil-service status, all persons employed by the Service with funds appropriated directly to it, from the Director down, are under civil service. Employees paid out of CCC funds are scheduled to be placed in Civil Service status under legislation passed by Congress late in 1940.

Under the Director and his Associate Director the Service organization is divided into branches which in effect constitute three major groups. One group comprising the Branches of Plans and Design (Architecture and Landscape Architecture), Engineering, and Recreation, Land Planning and State Cooperation—is chiefly concerned with the planning side of the Service's job. Another group of three branches constitutes the protection, interpretation, and research staff. These are the Branch of Research and Information, which includes the Naturalist and Museum Divisions, as well as wildlife technicians; the Branch of Historic Sites, concerned actually with both historic and prehistoric research and interpretation, and with phases of protection and development that involve historic areas; and the Branch of Forestry, concerned primarily with protection of the forest resources of the national parks, monuments, and other areas under Service administration. The third group is concerned with acquisition of lands, the various legal phases of the Service's activities, and field and office operations. The Office of Chief Counsel handles the first two activities, the Branch of Operations the last. The scope of the Branch of Operations is indicated by its several divisions—personnel, audit, operators (concessionaires).

Each of these groups and branches is, of course, subordinate to the Director; they are his advisers; they relieve him of the great mass of detail required to be handled in the course of developing and administering a far-flung, many-unit system; but ultimate responsibility for the functioning of the whole group rests upon him.

Like most governmental agencies, the National Park Service has evolved its administrative organization to meet changing and increasing responsibilities. When it was established in 1916, it administered 16 national parks and 21 national monuments, almost all situated in the Far West. At a time when the Branches of Engineering and Plans and Design were called upon to prepare the detailed planning of roads, buildings, etc. for these areas, both branches were located in San Francisco. So were most of the rest of its technical personnel.

During the past decade the number and kind of areas under administration by the Service have increased tremendously. With the transfer of a number of historic sites from the War Department and of National Monuments from the Forest Service, and establishment of a number of new scenic and historic parks and monuments east of the Mississippi, it has direct administrative responsibilities in nearly every State. These circumstances have forced the Service to follow the example of many other Federal agencies by regionalizing its work, and by passing out to its regional organizations a great part of the duties and responsibilities formerly handled by its Washington office.

Each of its regions very largely reflects the Service's Washington office in its organization and its functions, so far as those functions have been made subject to regional authority. Detailed planning is now performed almost wholly in the regional offices and on the several types of administrative areas, with only major plans and master plans now subject to the Director's approval. To a much greater extent the task of the technical branches in Washington has become that of assisting the Director in the formulation and enforcement of Service policies.

Individual areas under the regional offices, depending on their extent, importance, and amount and variety of use, tend again, in greater or less degree, to reflect the regional and Washington office in type of organization and in the varieties of technical service engineering, landscape architecture, forestry, wildlife, etc. available in meeting the special problems of the areas to which they are assigned. Wide administrative latitude, within the framework of regulations, rests with the superintendents of the national parks and the custodians of the national monuments.

Technical and administrative groups or divisions in each regional office bear the same relationship to the regional director as do the branches in the Washington office to the Director; the same is true of the relationship of park and monument staffs to those in charge of the areas.

It will be noted that, in its problems of selection, development and administration, the National Park Service leans heavily on technically trained employees in a large variety of fields. A breakdown which will indicate the diversity of specialization employed will perhaps be illuminating.

In the Branch of Engineering are specialists in civil, hydraulic, electrical, sanitary and highway engineering. Because of the Service's large concern with historical structures, and specifically with their repair and restoration, one regional staff includes an architect who is a specialist on period architecture and construction methods. In the wildlife field, it utilizes the services of Fish and Wildlife Service employees assigned to it, who are specialists in the fields of botany, ichthyology, zoology, ecology, and wildlife management. The Branch of Historic Sites, concerned likewise with prehistoric sites, includes archaeologists as well as historians on its staff. The Branch of Research and Interpretation employs geologists, whose services are also important in connection with at least two types of developmental work investigation of dam sites and sources of potable water supplies and specialists in modern museum technique and in nature education.

During the present administration a number of special tasks have been laid upon the Service, which are germane to its primary purposes, and for which, in consequence, one branch or another, at least in some degree, was specially equipped. Thus the Historic American Buildings Survey, a P. W. A. project, was naturally allocated to the Branch of Plans and Design. The Historic Sites Survey, authorized by Congress in 1935, was as naturally assigned to the Branch of Historic Sites. The Park, Parkway and Recreational-Area Study, authorized by Congress in 1936, was assigned to the Branch of Recreation, Land Planning and State Cooperation, which has also had immediate direction of the CCC program assigned to the Service. The latter is preponderantly a matter of cooperation with the States and their subdivisions in the development of parks and other recreational areas. The same branch supervises the Service's emergency relief projects.

Although the Service finds it necessary to employ sanitary engineers for preparation and review of designs for sanitary facilities, it has had a long-standing inter-bureau arrangement whereby the Public Health Service provides final technical review of all such projects. And since 1925, all major park and parkway road construction has been handled by the Bureau of Public Roads, in the Department of Agriculture and its successor, the Public Roads Administration in the Federal Works Agency. Reciprocal arrangements with the United States Forest Service in connection with forest-fire detection, prevention, and control have been in effect almost from the beginning. Frequent and repeated use has been made over the years of the special services and scientific knowledge and counsel obtainable from other Government agencies regardless of the department in which they have been located. As a matter of fact, it has been the fixed policy of the Service to avoid extension of its own organization in any field in which satisfactory service was available from already existing agencies of government.

The functions of administration, in the case of a park and recreation agency, have been briefly summarized. Let us briefly indicate the way or the means, by which the organization described actually performs those functions.

The first on our list, it will be remembered, are planning and development. The planning function, of course, is "double-barreled," involving selection as a phase of land planning, and area planning for protection and use.

The first, involving careful examination, and appraisal of areas proposed for some national status, is one of the numerous responsibilities of the Branch of Recreation, Land Planning and State Cooperation, which, however, calls upon the landscape architect, the forester, the naturalist, the historian, and the archaeologist for assistance in uncovering and evaluating the qualifications upon which final decision as to status must be based. For many years, the process of growth in the Federal park system was one of approval of or resistance to advocacy of individual areas, with examination of them largely the part-time task of one man. Congressional legislation establishing the Southern Appalachian Park Commission, which undertook to discover an eastern area deserving of national park status, and which recommended three, marked the first major step toward a different approach. With its standards of selection well established, and with the disposition of Congress ordinarily to protect those standards—or of successive Presidents in those rare cases in which Congress has yielded—the Service has adopted the more sensible method of seeking out and endeavoring to add to the system areas that meet its exacting standards.

While the process of selection now as always rests primarily on Service appraisal and recommendation, actual establishment of national parks, whether of the scenic or the historic type, continues to rest with Congress, and of national monuments with the President.

While general policies as to operation and maintenance are of course established by the Service, responsibility for establishment and enforcement and interpretation of those policies in the light of the special requirements of any individual area rests on the man in charge of it. His is the task of seeing that the public is handled satisfactorily, and that Service regulations are met by the public, the park employees and those who operate the hotels, restaurants, transportation and other "utilities" which must be supplied in order that the public may derive the fullest enjoyment and benefit from their use of the area. Periodic audits of his books, perusal of the reports he is required to submit, and fairly frequent visits by administrative representatives of the Washington or regional office provide the checks found necessary in any such far flung organization, on which judgment as to the competence of his performance is based. As previously indicated, responsibility, under the Director, for conduct of the normal tasks of field administration rests with the Branch of Operations.

The meager appropriations to the National Park Service during the early years of its existence, and the absolute necessity of providing better accommodations to park visitors than had been available previous to the establishment of the Service, resulted in adoption of a policy under which private capital was permitted and urged to construct and operate hotels, lodges, restaurant facilities, transportation, etc., under long-term contracts.

While the uses to which national parks and monuments might properly be put have been limited by the character and purposes of the areas themselves, interpretation and use within those limits has been a steadily growing concern of the Service much enlarged by its expansion into the field of history and prehistory. The great objective of the Service has been that people may not only see but may better understand what they see, whether it be a glacier-carved valley, a giant forest, the site of a crucial battle, or the council chamber of a tribe long since returned to the dust. Thus, it has established a museum program with well defined policies which are directed toward making the program effective and toward preventing museums from becoming repositories of unrelated or insignificant exhibit materials; and through constant study and research it has developed techniques which are constantly gaining in effectiveness.

Research on matters of wildlife protection and management, on methods of nature education in the out-of-doors and of relating museums to such educational activities, on development of effective signs and markers in preservation and display of historic and prehistoric structures, on the philosophy and methods of imposing fees and charges—these suggest the varied fields in which the Service carries forward the work of research on which its policies and practices must be based.

As in the case of any public or private agency, the public-relations program of the Service is a joint responsibility shared by every employee who has occasion to come in contact with the public, by whatever means, from the Director in Washington to the ranger in the park or monument. Understanding of the Service's work, its purposes, and its policies is promoted by all the means available to it—public addresses, illustrated talks, motion pictures, exhibits, the supplying of news and articles to newspapers and other publications, etc. within the limits imposed by available personnel and funds.

Even if it were not sound administrative practice, the Service would be compelled, as most publicly supported agencies are compelled, to prepare each year a detailed budget setting forth its needs of funds for the next fiscal year. Cleared through the Department and the Bureau of the Budget for consideration by Congress, it is then, of course, subject to congressional action and congressional modification. While Federal appropriations to a bureau are made in such a way as to allow some latitude with respect to changes in individual items of the detailed budget, and even for transfers of funds from one area to another, each park's detailed budget guides its expenditures, subject to change only with the Director's approval. Such a system necessitates the most careful advance planning and anticipation of future needs, and adherence to it both compels an orderly spending procedure and tends to prevent neglect of the vital needs of one area for the benefit of another.

State Administrative Organization. Although in the Federal Government coordination of conservation and recreational activities, particularly in the provision of recreational facilities, is far from adequate, the bad features of this situation are widely recognized. The necessity for close association of conservation and land holding agencies for effective coordination of their activities is indicated both by the results, in duplication of organization and effort, wherever, at any level of government, such an arrangement is not provided; and, on the contrary, by increased effectiveness in most cases where it is.

The possible scope of such an association of agencies in this field is indicated by the following fields of activity which are allocated to departments of conservation in one or another of the States: parks and recreation, forestry, wildlife, inland fisheries, salt-water fisheries, geology, soils, type mapping, reclamation, entomology, engineering. Taking simply the field of parks and recreation, it may be seen at a glance that a division concerned primarily with this field may, and probably will have occasion, from time to time, to call for special services on almost any other in the group. So, in fact, would forestry and wildlife, and in lesser degree, others in the list. The virtues of such close association in a single department, manned by competent and conscientious personnel, are such that it is earnestly recommended to every State.

Though State departments of conservation are subject to a number of individual variations in set up, and to varying degrees of inclusiveness, they fall into two general classes which may be referred to as the commission type and the executive type. The former is characterized by having a commission, usually gubernatorial appointees; a director, at least nominally chosen by the commission; and three or more divisions or branches, each headed by a division chief. The executive type, exemplified by New York, Tennessee, California, Alabama, and others, differs only in that the commission is either lacking or, as in Tennessee, is an advisory group, and the executive in charge of the department is appointed by the governor. In either case the burden of the whole undertaking rests primarily upon this executive. For that reason it seems advisable to consider briefly the qualifications most desirable in a person selected for such a position, which has become one of the most important in State government.

Genuine administrative ability may be taken for granted as a sine qua non for any director of conservation if his work is to be successful. In addition, he should certainly possess profound convictions as to the need and value of a broad, well-balanced policy of conservation of natural and human resources; a good, general understanding of the scope and purposes of each of the important conservation fields, and a genius for impartiality toward them; an appreciation of the contribution to be expected of and sought from the specialists in each of these fields; and the ability, particularly in connection with land-use planning, to weigh conflicting claims for use, and decide them on the basis of the greatest long-term public benefit.

It is believed to be unnecessary that a person in such a position be an expert or specialist in any phase of conservation. In fact, that might be definitely undesirable, since it is difficult—though of course not impossible—for a person so qualified to maintain that balance of impartiality so desirable in any person so placed.

In addition to what has already been said, the wholly successful director of conservation must be something of a crusader. His is a task, the performance of which is bound to affect profoundly the well-being and happiness of the citizens of his State and other States, both in the present and in the future. His great problem is that of combating the lethargy of the indifferent and the desire for immediate advantage of the selfish exploiter. Thus his convictions, instead of being academic, have to be backed by courage, initiative, energy—they must have backbone.

Granting the desirability of a truly inclusive conservation or natural resources department as one of the major branches of a State government, the question then may be asked: What are the advantages or disadvantages of the commission type as opposed to the executive type?

Figure 23. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Let us examine a few examples of these two types. The State of New York has long been active in the field of conservation and has spent immensely greater funds in support of it than any other State. Its organization is of the executive type—a commissioner, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, has general direction of park, forestry, water-power, and fish and game activities. His are both the major administrative decisions as well as the major decisions on policy. Either may be made quickly, without having to await consideration by any other policy-making group. That it works and works well in New York is due principally to two factors. The first is that over a long period the governors of New York have appointed exceptionally able men to the office of conservation commissioner. The second is that the staff of the department is permanent and competent, employed under civil service and consequently not subject to removal for political reasons.

In addition, the long and efficient record of the Department has been such as to give major policy a degree of stabilization not found in States still new to the business of conservation. Thus, were a conservation commissioner inclined to make a major change of policy, long informed public opinion would tend at least to require sound justification for it.

Unfortunately, only a few States have succeeded in establishing civil-service employment. Largely because of that fact, the conservation commission form of organization has many ardent advocates. Though such commissions are appointed by governors, such appointments are usually for definite and fairly long terms and are staggered in such a way that normally not more than one member's term expires in any one year. Length of service gives an opportunity to acquire mature judgment through acquaintance with existing policies and practices; and men who might be inclined to "upset the apple cart" are usually in the minority, restrained by other and more experienced heads. Such a set-up is, of course, not actually wholly free from political influences of undesirable kinds, but practice has shown that it is likewise a stable type of set-up and that it provides a pretty fair degree of continued employment for proved and competent personnel.

In any conservation department organization it is important that park and recreation activities be established as coordinate with forestry, fish and game, and other divisions normally found in such departments, rather than subordinate to any one of them.

Because parks and recreation in many States gained recognition as a legitimate feature of a conservation program considerably later than fish and game or forestry, it has often been established as part of one or the other of these functions. That has been particularly true in the South—Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, and others, where it has been placed under the forestry authorities. New Hampshire, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Montana are examples in other parts of the country. Frequently the attitude of the State foresters toward this new activity has been excellent, as has that of fish and game authorities in other States who have assumed responsibility for parks. Increasingly, however, as new conservation departments are established, it is given a coordinate place in the group of functions assigned to the departments, because it is a distinctive and specialized field, yearly growing in importance.

In most States the same relationship between central office and area administration exists as was the case in the National Park Service until 1937. In a few, however, extent of territory and number of areas has compelled or resulted in an arrangement more or less analogous to the regionalization then put into effect by the Service. New York, nearly a decade and a half ago, established a group of park regions, which now total eleven, of which ten have commissions of three to ten members, each headed by an executive officer, and each possessing a large degree of autonomy. These are united in the State Council of Parks which, subject to control by the Commissioner of Conservation, decides those limited major policies and administrative questions not delegated to the regional commission. Successor to a considerable number of local and independent and, as far as appropriations were concerned, competitive commissions, the Council now coordinates the budgets often of the regions and presents a single unified budget for the entire group, thus halting competitive pressure for funds before submission to the Commissioner, the budget officers, the Governor and the Legislature.

Michigan has established nine park districts, and California four, each containing groups of several parks, and each exercising powers of varying extent delegated to the executive officers who head them.

It was noted in the discussion of National Park Service organization that extent of territory, number and variety of areas, and the variety of problems encountered, compelled organization of the Washington office and the regional offices into a number of branches and divisions respectively. While most States face some or nearly all the problems in connection with administration selection, development, operation, maintenance and use—it is manifestly impossible, even if it were desirable, for most States even approximately to duplicate that organization. Yet, it is equally apparent that any State administering a reasonably extensive and adequate system can perform its task satisfactorily only if it is in a position to avail itself of such specialized services as are supplied by those branches.

Selection of areas requires the services of those who can acceptably appraise scenic, scientific, historic, prehistoric, and active recreational values and who can envision the extent and kind of development and protection an area will require. For any area, planning that is genuinely skilled and expert, both of individual structures and of their relationship to each other and to the roads, trails, and utilities that are required, is essential and can be supplied only by those who have been trained by education and experience for the task. Those services which are supplied in the National Park Service by the Branches of Recreation, Land Planning and State Cooperation, Plans and Design, and Engineering, are equally essential in the State park administrative organization, and for most of them on a full-time basis. The need for architectural, landscape architectural and engineering staffs appears now to be generally recognized and admitted. So, of course, is the need of properly equipped operating and maintenance personnel, although the necessity of bringing this group of men—the men who have to make the thing work—into consultation in connection with all phases of planning is still given too little recognition, to the ultimate greater cost to the State.

Somewhat less recognized is the need of the services of such persons as the historian, the archaeologist, the forester, the wildlife technician, the geologist, the ichthyologist, the botanist, and others, whose knowledge is valuable and necessary at every phase of the park task, from selection to ultimate use. In New York State, for example, the State Council of Parks some 10 years ago recommended transfer of its numerous historical areas to the Department of Education, and in default of such action largely continues to look upon these areas as a collection of fifth wheels in the State park system, but not belonging to it. Yet, New York has, and has thus far missed an opportunity for, an outstanding historical program, one which would add distinction to its work in the State park field if properly organized and directed. The Empire State could establish the equivalent of the Branch of Historic Sites in its park and monument set-up to its own profit and the profit and inspiration of its own people. Equally, in many States, the urge to provide more and more facilities for the picnickers, the campers, the swimmers, the golfers, has kept administrative eyes on these things to the greater or less exclusion of other recreationally valuable features; such as the geology, the botany, the wildlife and other assets of their properties. In one leading park State one may go into a State park and paddle or swim in a lovely lake without ever seeing or hearing anything to indicate that a glacier formed it; in another enter a museum in which those exhibits that help to interpret its natural and human history are obscured by a miscellaneous potpourri of unrelated material. It is thus a failure either as a park museum or any other kind. And in virtually every State it is possible to enter almost any park on a week day, even in summer, and find it almost deserted and its expensive plant idle because there has been little or no attempt to organize and lead use during those periods when use is most pleasant because freed of the pressure of great crowds. In a few alert and energetic States it has been amply proved that where such planning and organization and leadership are provided through competent and trained personnel, the usefulness of park facilities can be gratifyingly increased, and far greater interest aroused in those natural or historical features which characterize every wisely selected State park. And it can be done without application or even suspicion of either regimentation or compulsion.

All this may be interpreted to indicate that almost any State would benefit by careful exploration of the possibilities of expanded usefulness for its park and related properties, and by employment of personnel qualified to develop or promote those possibilities. Those States which lack funds with which to provide full-time employment for qualified personnel not available from some closely associated agency—such as another division in a department of conservation can often employ it on a part-time basis or can obtain it at little or no cost from a State university or even one privately endowed. By whatever means it may be obtained, and whether on full-time employment, part-time employment, or any other basis, every State needs to do its utmost to assure the most expert handling of its problems that the means at its disposal will permit.

The county, the metropolitan district, and the city, with some exceptions, come into the conservation-recreation field, only through possession of parks and playgrounds. Their administrative organizations logically reflect this situation in the park boards, park commissions, and park commissioners, variously appointed or elected, which have been created to handle their park and recreational problems. Their main functions—selection, planning, development, operation, public relations, research, preparation of budget, etc. are essentially the same as those of State or Federal Governments, and require as expert handling.

Major Functions of Administrative Organizations. In view of the emphasis given to proper selection and proper planning of park and recreation areas, to businesslike and efficient operation, and to proper budgetary procedure, it is becoming difficult to remember that only a few years ago many agencies, particularly those of the States, operated largely on the assumption that a State park needed no planning; that it was just there and folks could come in and use it; that administration of a State park system required no particular special qualifications; and that the expert in natural history, or history, or landscape architecture was unnecessary.

Improved as the situation is today, many advances toward accomplishment of the park and recreation administration job remain to be accomplished. The following discussions of the major functions of park administration are offered in the belief that they will help to broaden the concept of that job and its requirements.

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