On-line Book
cover to
The CCC and the NPS
Cover Page




    Brief History of the CCC

    National Park Service Role

    NPS Camps


    Overall Accomplishments



The Civilian Conservation Corps and
the National Park Service, 1933-1942:

An Administrative History
Chapter Four:
National Park Service Arrowhead


During the first year's administration of the state parks program, Park Service officials found that the newly appointed state park officials were permitting development in state and county parks that the Park Service saw as intrusive on park resources and difficult to maintain. In addition, states submitted proposals for expensive accommodations and extensive road construction projects to the NPS. The Park Service believed that these plans could have detrimental impacts upon the wildlife and natural features of the park and so many of these proposals were turned down. The NPS state park officials were warned that if they continued making these types of proposals their camps would be relocated. [14]

In May 1933 Director Albright issued a warning to the superintendents and state park officials that the ECW work should keep certain restrictions in mind. The removal of underbrush and ground cover should be done only to the extent that the habitat of small birds and mammals was not destroyed. Also, no exotic vegetation was to be introduced in the parks and no artificial landscaping was to be done in natural areas. Director Albright further stressed that any fire truck roads or trails should not be built if these actions would damage wilderness areas. He admitted that the emergency conservation work could prove harmful to wildlife and suggested that if the park officials had any questions on the matter they should contact the NPS Wildlife Division for guidance. [15]

In the first year of the ECW program, truck trails were constructed to provide access to park areas in case of fire. After the original trails were constructed, the standards were changed, resulting in improvements to the trails to the point that primitive areas were being opened to general visitation. Director Cammerer was concerned enough about the potential overdevelopment of park areas that he disapproved five major trail projects in the summer of 1934. In this regard, Cammerer had received a number of complaints concerning road development at Acadia National Park and ordered an investigation of the matter. [16]

Director Fechner maintained that the ECW had no damaging effects on parks and forests. During a 1935 radio broadcast, he explained:

There is something I would like to stress and that is that on every project in which the CCC is engaged, the greatest of care has been exercised to prevent any injury to the scenic beauty of the national and State parks and monuments. Native materials only have been used in the planting of trees and shrubs and natural conditions have been maintained so far as consistent with the use of the developed areas. [17]

Not everyone was as confident as Director Fechner that the ECW preserved the natural environment. In an address to the National Park Service Conference of State Park Authorities, Secretary of the Interior Ickes stressed the need to preserve the natural scenery and wilderness in park areas and voiced concern over park overdevelopment. He commented:

The recreational needs of the country are one of the major problems of the country. It seems to me there is a clear distinction between what we are trying to do and ought to do in our National Parks and what we ought to do in at least the State and local parks.

As Mr. Cammerer so well said, our National Parks, so far as possible, ought to be kept in their natural state. There were inferences in his remarks which perhaps you did not get. I am not in favor of building any more roads in the National Parks than we have to build; I am not in favor of doing anything along the lines of so-called improvements that we do not have to do. This is an automobile age. But I do not have a great deal of patience with people whose idea of enjoying nature is dashing along the hard road at fifty or sixty miles an hour. I am not willing that our beautiful areas should be opened up to people who are either too old to walk, as I am, or too lazy to walk, as a great many young people are who ought to be ashamed of themselves. I do not happen to favor the scarring of the wonderful mountainside just so that we can say we have a skyline drive. It sounds poetical, but it may be creating a natural atrocity.

Mr. Cammerer is quite right. I would not agree to put in a lake where there should not be a lake, merely to have a lake. An artificial lake is not a lake, after all. It is all right in a State park. But that is a different sort of thing. It is out of place in a wilderness area. So long as I am Secretary of the Interior and have anything to say about the parks, I am going to use all of the influence I have to keep parks just as far as possible in their natural state.

Your State Parks are a different problem. They are more recreational than wilderness areas. Some of them, especially those that are near big areas of population, ought to be available for people who need exercise and recreation. . . .

As to our State Parks, I think they are doing a great deal for recreation in keeping people outdoors who live in crowded areas. I think if they are near centers of population they ought to be largely recreational. [18]

Before the address by Secretary Ickes, Director Cammerer had emphasized that in Park Service areas the creation of lakes and other landscape modifications should only be done when research proved that these features were at one time part of the natural scene. Cammerer further pointed out that the cleanup of park areas should only be done to the extent that adequate ground cover for birds and wildlife remained undisturbed. The Department of the Interior's Manual on Emergency Conservation Work stated that native species of plants were to be used--except for lawns, military parks, and cemeteries where exotic grass seed was acceptable. Exotic plants were not to be used for erosion control except when already present or when special permission was obtained from the Washington Office. Adhering to this policy at Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, revegetation was done by sowing seeds of native flowers along roads and by transplanting small plants of native species. That same year, however, work at New Found Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park included the construction of formal flower beds by the parking areas and a man-made entrance to the proposed Mammoth Cave National Park. [19]

In 1936 Leonard Wing charged, in the American Forests magazine, that the ECW work in the forests and parklands endangered wildlife. He found that in woodland areas the "cleanup" program had removed necessary forage. He also believed that the revegetation program could introduce species that might be harmful to wildlife. Although the Park Service never formally commented on these charges, some superintendents believed that the technical staff who supervised ECW work should be better trained in conservation measures and that the ECW program was leading to park overdevelopment. [20]

In 1938 Ovid Butler, secretary of the American Forestry Association, expressed concern to CCC Director Fechner that the activities undertaken were much more diverse than just the conservation of natural resources. Butler advocated that the CCC program return to concentrating on strict conservation measures. These same concerns were expressed by Park Service officials and resulted in a reemphasis of the NPS policy of not introducing anything artificial into natural areas and carefully monitoring CCC projects to prevent park overdevelopment. Despite these good intentions, as the CCC program was being reduced in 1939 the Park Service found it increasingly difficult even to carry out conservation programs. [21]

NEXT> Technical Assistance


Last Modified: Tues, Apr 4 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

National Park Service's ParkNet Home