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NPS Expansion: 1930s







New Deal



NPS 1933-39




Expansion of the National Park Service in the 1930s:
Administrative History

Chapter Four: New Initiatives in the Field of Recreation and Recreational Area Development
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I. Recreational Demonstration Areas

Among many other features, Title II of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of June 16, 1933, authorized the creation of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works to administer a program of public works "to conserve the interests of the general public." The projects were to include "conservation and development of natural resources, including control, utilization, and purification of water, prevention of soil or coastal erosion." This established the legislative basis for a program authorizing federal purchases of land considered to be submarginal for agricultural purposes but valuable for recreational utilization. As the recreational demonstration area program would unfold, such lands were to be purchased and developed as parks and later turned over to the states and municipalities for permanent administration.

On July 18, 1934, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works allotted and transferred $25,000,000 from the $3,300,000,000 appropriation in the .4th Deficiency Act (Fiscal Year 1933 for NIRA) to the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation to construct a program of public works projects. These projects had been determined by the Land Program Committee of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)--a committee established in January 1934 to coordinate a program for the reutilization of submarginal lands. Consisting of John S. Lansill, director, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, Harry L. Hopkins, FERA administrator, and W. I. Myers, governor of the Farm Credit Administration, this committee worked through coordinators appointed by the cooperating departments and agencies.Conrad L. Wirth was designated the coordinator for the Department of the Interior, and Matt Huppuch of the National Park Service served as his alternate. [49]

As described in a memorandum of July 16, 1934, the Land Program of FERA was to have six objectives. These were:

(1) Conversion of poor land to other and more proper uses;

(2) Prevention of the misuse of land by erosion or other causes, and a restoration of land productivity;

(3) Improvement of economics and social status of families occupying poverty farms;

(4) Improvement of the economic and social status of "industrially stranded population groups," occupying essentially rural areas, including readjustment and rehabilitation of Indian population by acquisition of lands to enable them to make appropriate and constructively planned use of combined land areas in units suited to their needs;

(5) Reducing the costs of local governments and of local public institutions and services; and

(6) Encouragement of land-use planning by setting up experimental projects which will serve as reputable demonstrations of types of adjustments applicable to various regions in the United States.

The Land Program would have three phases:

(1) The purchase of land.

(2) The conversion of land purchased to a use, beneficial to the peoples of the United States.

(3) The permanent rehabilitation of the population at present living on land purchased.

Four major types of projects would be carried out under the Land Program including demonstration agricultural, recreational, wildlife, and Indian lands projects. [50]

Of the $25,000,000 allotment made to the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, $5,000,000 was to be used for the acquisition of certain lands for recreational demonstration use, and the National Park Service was designated to develop this phase of the program. The bureau had played an active role in the formulation of the FERA Land Program, and earlier in June 1934 Director Cammerer had indicated that the Park Service was already involved in drawing up guidelines for such areas:

Three types of areas are being studied. The first and largest of these comprises a few well located regional recreational areas, consisting of from 10,000 to 15,000 acres that may be used by large numbers of visitors. The second type consists of smaller tracts of 1,500 to 2,000 acres in close proximity to the larger industrial centers for use by people of the lower income group and underprivileged children, for family camps, children-group camps, and organization camps. The third type is composed of tracts of 20 to 50 acres along well traveled highways that may be used as picnic areas by the traveler or family groups seeking a day's outing. These areas have been termed "wayside." Since the need of the last two types of areas is deemed most urgent, they are being given first consideration. [51]

The direct responsibilities of the Park Service in the demonstration recreational areas program included: (a) selection of areas; (b) acquisition of options and other pertinent data; (c) development of plans; (d) execution of such work as could be done by the CCC and FERA; and (e) preparation of agreements with the states and their political subdivisions regarding development, management, and maintenance of the areas. [52]

The recreational demonstration areas program became a major thrust of the National Park Service efforts in recreational planning and development in fiscal year 1935. A number of these projects were initiated under the authority of Executive Order 6983, dated March 6, 1935, to carry out the provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act. [53] In his annual report for fiscal year 1935, Director Cammerer observed that the agency had undertaken

. . . studies of submarginal lands with a view to recommending reallocation of certain areas as demonstration projects to provide low-cost recreational facilities for concentrated urban populations, especially the underprivileged group . Studies were made in each of the 48 States in cooperation with State planning boards and State park authorities. In general the projects, when completed, will be turned over to State agencies for administration. Several, however, needed to extend the present national-park and monument system, are being considered for retention in Federal control.

During the past year 58 recreational demonstration projects, located in 88 counties and involving 827,120 acres, were established or given preliminary approval for investigation. A total of 578,650 acres was appraised and 397,878 acres optioned. Twenty-two projects, which when developed will furnish recreational facilities to more than 20,000,000 people within a radius of 50 miles, were approved for acquisition and development, involving 339,650 acres at a cost of $2,810,366. Of the more than 1,200 families living on the tracts proposed for purchase, about 250 will require financial assistance in rehabilitation or resettlement.

During the year thirteen CCC camps had been established to develop these demonstration projects, and plans called for the use in part of thirty-one camps for that purpose in fiscal year 1936. [54]

By Executive Order 7028, dated April 30, 1935, the entire Land Program was transferred from FERA to the Resettlement Administration of the Department of Agriculture. Under this new arrangement land for recreational demonstration areas was to be acquired by the Resettlement Administration and developed under plans formulated by the National Park Service. [55]

By June 1936 there were under development forty-six recreational demonstration projects in twenty-four states. Nearly 500,000 acres were in process of acquisition with Resettlement Administration funds at a cost of approximately $5,000,000 to date. The areas were readily accessible to some 30,000,000 people, and the majority of the areas were being planned for the organized camping facility needs of the major metropolitan areas. It was anticipated that at least ten organized camps, each with a capacity of from 100 to 125 campers, would soon be in operation. In addition, other recreational facilities, including picnic areas, trails, and artificial lakes, had been developed. Wildlife, fire protection, and general development programs had also been initiated in many of the areas, using the technical assistance of Park Service personnel. [56]

On November 14, 1936, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7496, transferring the forty-six recreational projects, together with real and personal property, contracts, options, and personnel from the Resettlement Administration to the National Park Service. The order also transferred the balances of the development allotments outstanding for the projects as well as the necessary authority to complete and to administer the projects. [57]

After the transfer to the Park Service all land acquisition and related legal activities for the recreational demonstration areas were placed under the Recreational Demonstration Project Land Acquisition Section of the Branch of Recreational Planning and State Cooperation with Tilford E. Dudley as chief. Planning for acquisition was centralized in this section with area attorneys assigned to project, district, and regional offices as necessary and answering directly to Dudley. Regional officers were given the responsibility for accepting land options and providing general administrative oversight of the projects. [58]

The National Park Service implemented the recreational demonstration area program with enthusiasm. In June 1937 Director Cammerer described these areas as constituting "a unique form of land use increasingly valuable to the American people, affording outlets for out-of-door recreation accessible to congested populations, and retiring from agricultural use unarable lands of no economic worth." At the time forty-seven organized campgrounds were under construction in twenty-four recreational demonstration areas, and fifteen campgrounds had just been completed for use that summer. Waysides were being developed along main highways in Virginia and South Carolina for the accommodation of those seeking one-day outings. Some 12,000 relief workers and 4,500 CCC enrollees were assigned to the Park Service projects. Thus far, a total of 99,513 acres had been acquired for the program, and of this total 3,607 had been acquired during fiscal year 1937. While the Park Service still intended to turn the majority of the areas over to the states after development, it had determined to retain several under its jurisdiction for incorporation into the National Park System. [59]

Considerable progress was made in the planning, layout, and development of camping facilities in the recreational demonstration areas during fiscal year 1938. According to the annual report of Director Cammerer for that year:

Forty-eight of sixty-four organized camps under construction on 34 of those areas were scheduled to be completed and in use for the summer of 1938. Thirty-one of these were furnished before the end of the fiscal year. These facilities, which received 100,000 camper-days use and provided recreation for 1,000,000 day-use visitors in 1937, include adequate systems of control roads, water and sanitary systems, central administration and service groups. . . . General conservation treatment is also applied on each area, and in some instances certain portions are set aside as wildlife refuges.

Thirteen wayside parks contiguous to principal highways in Virginia and South Carolina were also under development with each area being equipped with picnic facilities and water and sanitary facilities.

Altogether, the recreational demonstration area development had been carried out by some 8,000 relief workers and 2,300 CCC enrollees in fiscal year 1938. A total of 352,874 acres had been acquired for the areas, title to 253,361 acres of which was cleared that year. [60]

The Park Service published a brochure, entitled "An Invitation to New Play Areas," during the spring of 1938 that described the objectives and facilities of the recreational demonstration areas:

Recreational Demonstration Areas are large tracts of land established and developed by the National Park Service within range of population centers, to partly meet recreation deficiencies.

Purposely located where they would be accessible to large numbers of people, these parks offer new recreational opportunities of variety, thus fulfilling their designation as demonstrations in the use of lands well adapted to recreation.

. . . The areas which lie closest to the large industrial cities are best known for their organized camping facilities which are used by hundreds of camping organizations. These camps were planned primarily to meet the needs of social and welfare and other non-profit agencies unable to finance the purchase of land and construction of their own facilities. In addition to these facilities the areas offer thousands of miles of clear streams, protected from soil erosion, numerous lakes, picnic areas, bathhouses and playfields. . . .

Means for nearly every type of camping are provided on these Federal recreation areas. There are public campgrounds for family tents and trailers. For the hiker with his pack there are trailside campsites and trailside shelters. For organized groups there are trail lodges; permanent all-weather buildings accommodating from 8 to 20 persons; organized tent campsites for groups of 25 to 30 people, at which water and sanitary facilities are available. Permanent organized camps with camper capacity ranging from 24 to 120 persons are fully equipped with all needed buildings and either sleeping cabins or tent platforms.

The organized camps are available to both large and small responsible groups which operate them for a weekend, for several weeks, or for the entire summer season.

The permanent organized camps normally consist of a central unit including the central dining and recreation hall, office, camp store and other service structures. Outlying from this central group are several camp units each consisting of campers and counsellors' sleeping cabins distributed around a unit lodge and combination latrine and washhouse. The unit lodge is the community building equipped with a simple outdoor kitchen where the campers can cook and eat their meals as a unit if they so desire. They are so constructed as to be suitable for use by small groups throughout the year.

Groups using the camps supply their own movable equipment. On most of the areas Government-owned cots are available for use. It is also possible in some cases for small groups using the camps to make arrangements with agencies holding seasonal permits for use of their movable equipment which they store in the camps. These arrangements, however, are entirely private transactions between the two groups.

On a number of the areas activity programs of nature study, crafts and dramatics are offered. Some of these activities are encouraged through means of local advisory groups of citizens who assist the National Park Service in endeavoring to offer the fullest social benefits to communities within reach of these areas. [61]

By June 1939 the National Park Service had acquired 374,537 acres for the recreational demonstration area program. Declarations of taking had been filed to acquire all remaining tracts for which funds were available. Sixty organized camps and numerous picnic areas and public bathing facilities had been or were nearing completion. There had been a 400 percent increase in the number of camper-days during the past year as well as a similar increase in day-use patronage. One area, Swift Creek Recreational Demonstration Area in Virginia, alone had more than 100,000 visitors. In addition to the summer use of organized camps, there was a great increase in short-term camping throughout the year. The summer camping programs were operated by county governments, community chest agencies, city boards of education, YMCA and YWCA organizations, youth committees, and in South Carolina directly by the Division of State Parks. An even greater variety of agencies used the camps on weekends and holidays. [62]

As further development of recreational demonstration areas began to slow in fiscal year 1940, the National Park Service issued a general statement of policy regarding the objectives, successes, and values of such areas. According to a memorandum issued by Director Cammerer on September 18, 1939,

These areas were purchased and developed for the purpose of demonstrating a better type of land use and to provide recreational facilities where in many cases there existed great deficiencies in such facilities. Today the majority of these areas represent a most effective demonstration in better land use. They have had considerable effect upon local economy. The development and use of these areas are a major contribution to the park and recreational area program of the United States and they have made possible outdoor recreational opportunities to hundreds of thousands of people who would not have had such experiences had it not been for these areas and facilities. This use presents a very desirable opportunity for the education of the people in the essentials of park and recreational conservation and a training school (of youth particularly) in the proper use of all park areas.

The public relations value of these areas is of importance to the Service primarily because there are millions whose only opportunity to come into direct contact with the work of the National Park Service is through their personal experience with these areas. [63]

Although funding and development programs for the recreational demonstration areas began to decline in fiscal year 1940, some improvements necessary to complete partially-finished projects continued to be made, and visitation and public use of the areas' facilities continued to increase In 1940 visitation to the areas doubled for the third consecutive year. Approximately 600 rural and urban organizations from 200 different communities used the group camping facilities which could accommodate some 7,500 persons at a time. [64]

By 1941 it became increasingly clear the recreational demonstration areas were becoming a financial drain on the bureau. No regular appropriation for the administration and operation of the areas had been passed by Congress, and efforts to transfer them to the states had been rebuffed. Inadequate funding "made it inadvisable to attract public attention to the recreational opportunities available." Nevertheless, the 100 organized campgrounds had been in continuous use throughout the summer of 1940, and approximately 1,000 organizations made use of the facilities for weekend and holiday camping throughout the year. The picnic areas, group tent camping sites, public campgrounds, and bathing facilities were used to capacity.

The Kings Mountain and Cheraw recreational demonstration areas and four waysides in South Carolina were leased to the Division of State Parks of the South Carolina Forestry Commission for administration and operation of the organized campgrounds, refectories, and public bathhouses. Arrangements were made for the state recreation directors to supervise the activity programs in many of the other states. Because many of the areas were near military and industrial defense installations, the recreational demonstration areas were being used increasingly by personnel in the armed forces and war-related industries. [65]

ln October 1941 the Park Service published An Administrative Manual for Recreational Administrative Areas. The purpose of the manual was to provide for the uniform proper use, management, protection, and maintenance of the areas and to reiterate the agency objectives for their establishment. According to the manual the objectives and types of areas established by the Park Service were:

In developing these 46 projects in an effort to alleviate in some small degree, a long-felt need for increased recreational facilities--particularly among the lower income groups--an important objective has been that of demonstrating the practicability of such a program to the various State and local governments with the belief that they, in turn, might profit from the foundations laid by the Federal Government. In this connection, four distinct types of projects were inaugurated to provide varied forms of recreation to meet a variety of individual needs.

The types of areas, that comprised approximately 400,000 acres, were:

Vacation Areas

There are 31 separate vacation areas among the .46 recreational demonstration projects, embracing children's camps, family camps, and industrial and social organization camps, offering opportunities for low income groups of populous urban and rural sections, public and semi-public organizations and others to enjoy low cost vacations of outdoor life for short periods.

In addition, a majority of these areas provide facilities for day use and picnicking.

Wayside Areas

The 13 wayside developments provide facilities for picnicking, play, and relaxation to the traveling or "day's outing" public. The areas are readily accessible, being located along principal highways, and usually cover from 30 to 50 acres, depending largely upon the topography.

National Park and Monument Extensions

There are 11 separate areas included in the projects adjoining and to be added to existing national parks and monuments. These areas, acquired and developed through the use of Emergency Relief Act funds, will become a part of the national park system and provide additional recreational facilities for which regular funds were not available.

State Scenic Area Extensions

There are seven such extensions which will become a part of the park systems of the respective States in which they are located. These lands, in most cases, were improperly used lands adjoining recreational holdings, and were acquired so that they might be put to more advantageous use in connection with the recreational programs of the States, but for which funds were not available from the States to purchase and develop them.

The manual also included a list of the recreational demonstration areas. It should be noted that the sixty-two separate areas listed below is not identical with the list of legally designated forty-six recreational demonstration projects, some of which consisted of two or more areas:

NameState CountiesApprox.

Oak Mountain Alabama Shelby 7,802
Mendocino California Mendocino 5,425
Hard Labor Creek Georgia Morgan, Walton 5,816
Pere Marquette Illinois Jersey 2,205
Versailles Indiana Ripley 5,345
Winamac Indiana Pulaski 6,250
Otter Creek Kentucky Meade 2,455
Camden Maine Knox, Waldo 5,153
Catoctin Maryland Frederick, Washington 9,988
Waterloo Michigan Washtenaw, Jackson 12,105
Yankee Springs Michigan Barry 4,217
St. Croix Minnesota Pine 18,483
Lake of the Ozarks Missouri Miller, Camden 16,023
Culvre River Missouri Lincoln 5,751
Montserrat Missouri Johnson 3,444
Bear Brook New Hampshire Merrimack 6,347
Cabtree Creek No. Carolina Wake 4,986
Lake Murray Oklahoma Carter 2,230
Silver Creek Oregon Marion 3,391
Raccoon Creek Pennsylvania Beaver 5,066
French Creek Pennsylvania Berks, Chester 5,971
Laurel Hill Pennsylvania Somerset 4,025
Blue Knob Pennsylvania Bedford, Blair 5,565
Hickory Run Pennsylvania Carbon 12,907
Beach Pond Rhode Island Kent, Washington 1,619
Cheraw So. Carolina Chesterfield 6,930
Kings Mountain So. Carolina York, Cherokee 6,069
Montgomery Bell Tennessee Dickson 3,821
Shelby Forest Tennessee Shelby 12,478
Swift Creek Virginia Chesterfield 7,548
Chopawamsic Virginia Prince William, Stafford 14,414

Hanover Virginia Hanover 35
Pulaski Virginia Pulaski 20
Amherst Virginia Amherst 35
Pittsylvania Virginia Pittsylvania 53
Mecklenburg Virginia Mecklenburg 42
Fauquier Virginia Fauquier 18
Stafford Virginia Stafford
Aiken So. Carolina Aiken 35
Kershaw So. Carolina Kershaw 32
Greenville So. Carolina Greenville 62
Georgetown So. Carolina Georgetown 31
Greenwood So. Carolina Greenwood 29
Colleton So. Carolina Colleton 50

Alex. H. Stephens Georgia Taliaferro 985
Pine Mountain Georgia Harris 3,023
N. Roosevelt N. Dakota McKenzie 18,955
S. Roosevelt N. Dakota Billings 44,528
Custer Park So. Dakota Custer 20,168
Falls Creek Falls Tennessee Van Buren, Bledsoe 15,785
Lake Guernsey Wyoming Platte 1,880

Acadia Maine Hancock 5,691
White Sands New Mexico Otero, Dona Ana 1,718
Bull Run Virginia Prince William 1,475
Shenandoah Virginia Rappahannock, Madison, Rockingham, Page, Albemarle 10,294
Badlands So. Dakota Jackson, Pennington, Washington, Washabaugh 43,452
Kings Mt. National Military Park So. Carolina York, Cherokee 4,079
Blue Ridge Parkway
  Pine Spur Virginia Floyd, Franklin 309
  Smart View Virginia Floyd, Franklin 456
  Rocky Knob Virginia Floyd, Patrick 3,550
  Bluff No. Carolina Wilkes, Alleghany 5,475
  Cumberland Knob No. Carolina Surry 794 [66]

With several exceptions it was not the intention of the National Park Service to administer the recreational demonstration areas indefinitely. Once planned and developed they were to be turned over to the states or municipalities. In 1939 an act (H.R. 3959) passed Congress authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to convey or lease them to the states or local government units when they were prepared adequately to administer them. President Roosevelt, however, vetoed the bill on August 11, 1939. He believed that some of the projects might be of use to other federal agencies, that the legislation should be amended so that the transfers not involve the federal government in legal or moral commitments, and that the transfer should require presidential approval. [67]

A bill incorporating the changes recommended by President Roosevelt passed Congress on June 6, 1942. The act contained an additional provision that the grantees must use the recreational demonstration areas exclusively for public parks and recreational and conservation purposes. If they failed to do so the lands would revert to the federal government. [68] By 1946 virtually all recreational demonstration areas had been conveyed to the states, the last such transfer taking place in 1956. [69]

Chapter Four continues with...
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