On-line Book

Book Cover
A Brief History Of The National Park Service




National Park Idea

Early Growth

NPS Created






Plans and Design





Historic Conservation

Land Planning

State Cooperation


Work Camps

Recreation Study




Antiquities Act

Organic Act

Historic Sites Act

Recreational-Area Programs Act



Plans and Design

One of the chief responsibilities of the Service in its administration of the national park and monument system is to bring about a proper compromise between (1) preservation and protection of the landscape, and (2) developments for making park areas accessible and useful to the public. A delicate balance of conservation, calling for the exercise of sound judgment, is indicated in the correct adjustment of these seemingly opposing objectives.

From the very beginning, the Service recognized this responsibility as a serious one to be discharged through careful professional planning. The first landscape architect was employed by the Service in 1918 more or less as a field adviser in the western parks. Thomas C. Vint, the present chief of planning, came into the Service in 1922, with headquarters in Yosemite National Park, California. In 1923 the office was moved to Los Angeles, and thence to San Francisco in 1927. The present Branch of Plans and Design was so designated in 1933. From 1927 until 1935 the Branch grew in personnel from three or four to a total of 120 employees, including architects and landscape architects. In 1936, when the Branch assumed additional responsibilities in connection with state park work, a total of 220 men in the professional classifications were employed. These, of course, did not include foremen assigned to CCC camps to do a considerable amount of work of the same nature.

The main function of the Branch of Plans and Design is to serve as adviser to the Director and park superintendents on all matters of general policy and individual problems, covering physical improvements, development, preparation of plans and designs of an architectural or landscape architectural nature; and to design and prepare all architectural and landscape architectural plans and specifications for buildings constructed by the Government in the park and monument areas.

The Branch prepares and keeps up to date a master plan showing the general scheme for physical development of each park and monument area, and supervises the preparation and revision of other master plans for areas being developed under the direction of the Service. It advises the Director on the location of parkways, and collaborates with the Public Roads Administration in the preparation of plans, construction and inspection of parkways, and the location, design and construction of major roads in park and monument areas, in accordance with the "Inter-bureau Agreement." It also collaborates with the Branch of Engineering in the construction of minor roads and trails in the areas of the system.

Representing the Director, the Branch recommends approval or disapproval of landscape and architectural plans prepared by park operators and other concessionaire agencies, and consults and collaborates with them in the preparation of their plans. One of its chief functions is to maintain a construction program for each park, correlated with the master plan. It directs the activities of the Historic American Buildings Survey, supervising the preparation of drawings and supporting data, and keeping records of all other operations incidental to the successful operation of this program.

The making of location surveys (of proposed parkways) is the responsibility of this Branch, and this involves the collection of data, maps and other information for proper presentation of reports and recommendations on parkways proposed. Another duty is the preparation of right-of-way plans for roads and parkways proposed or constructed by the Service.

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Last Modified: Mon, Jun 16 2003 10:00:00 pm PDT

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