Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area
Read the 1936 Report: Recreational Demonstration Areas as Illustrated by Chopawamsic Virginia. This report elevated Chopawamsic as a model for the RDA program.
The Recreation Demonstration Area program began in 1933 as a comprehensive effort to alleviate the suffering brought by the Great Depression. It addressed three groups of people: struggling farmers, unemployed men, and poor children. This program also established a legacy for recreational land use in the U.S.
The goal of the RDA program was to have recreation available to large portions of the population. By the 1930s, most national parks were in the West. State parks were also inaccessible by the lower classes. Forty-six RDAs would appear before the end of the decade, all within reach of the country’s major cities. The maximum distance from these cities was thirty-five miles.
This program would first address the plight of farmers working on unsuitable land. The government offered poor farmers the opportunity to relocate. The Resettlement Administration (RA), established in 1935, arranged for the purchase of this submarginal land.
Fulfilling Its Purpose
The park kept at its center the recreational needs of the poor of the nation’s capital: “Here is a city of 500,000—as important as any on earth, marked by magnificence from Virginia’s river flats to Maryland’s hills—yet with no provisions for the simple pleasures of improved health of those who need it the most and can afford them the least."