The Future of Parks and Recreation
Probably the most singular thing about the state park program is the growth of these areas and systems throughout the country. State park acreage in the United States has increased tremendously since the inception of this work. Prior to 1933 it totaled 965,057 acres, exclusive of the Adirondack and Catskill State Forest Preserves of 2,345,634 acres in New York. By June 30, 1959 the total was approximately 1,918,863 acres, exclusive of the Adirondack and Catskill Preserves, showing an increase of some 953,806 acres, or practically 100 per cent. Since 1933 there has been an increase of about 581 park areas in 45 states, and these now number some 1,400 areas.
The value of the work program carried out in national and state parks through the CCC and with emergency funds could hardly be over estimated. For many years the gravest problem confronting the National Park Service in its responsibility for proper administration of the national parks and monuments was the lack of funds to carry out certain much needed measures for conservation and protection. The very same problem confronted those charged with care and development of state parks and related areas. Prior to the CCC, work programs were laid out in accordance with regular appropriations which, while sufficient to meet immediate requirements, did not allow much for major undertakings looking to long-term development. It had long been the rule of the Service that development plans for national parks and monuments must be kept six years ahead of date in order to provide a full program of work in the event that appropriations were enlarged in any year. This labor had its reward when, almost overnight, special funds were released and CCC and other manpower made available for important park work. So vast were these resources that the six year programs then existing were completed and even extended in many parks.
The rapid growth of the park and recreation movement in the United States, principally as the result of the impetus given by such Federal assistance as described above, has brought those engaged in this program to a truer appreciation of the meaning of conservation. As pointed out earlier, the term "conservation" was first applied to conserving the resources of the Nation which were important industrially or agriculturally. It was given a much broader meaning when later applied to holding and protecting the resources of land and water which were valuable chiefly for recreation.
From the way in which use of the facilities provided for outdoor recreation has demonstrated the necessity of this type of Government service to the people, it is realized now that conservation has broader meanings even than those which connect it with the economic and scenic resources of the country.
The resources of the Nation, which constitute its wealth, include the human as well as the material and the economic. Most important of all is this human wealth, to which all the other resources are dedicated. Recreation, therefore, is highly important as a part of the conservation of the human wealth. Through recreation, our people gain relief from the pressure of modern life with the heavy demands of its vocational activities. Our plan of living is gradually changing so that work is crowded into fewer hours and done at higher speed, leaving more hours of complete separation from one's job. With our living organized in this way, there is danger of a lack of balance between our industrial and recreational activities. It is toward a balance in this respect that our national recreation program is moving. The future calls for planning on three fronts: (1) the park and recreational area system, (2) access and travel, and (3) use and direction.
The last score of years has been steady extension and development of both the national park system and the state park systems. The most widespread development of state parks and recreation areas, as already explained, has occurred since 1933 when Federal aid in the form of money, manpower, and technical assistance was made available to the states for the first time for such work. Access and travel to park and recreation areas is being assisted by the National Park Service through the United States Travel Bureau. As to direction and use, the Service has recognized from its establishment that only through proper assistance and direction can the public make the best use of recreational areas. Therefore, it has always been the policy of the Service to provide adequate assistance and information for visitors to the national parks and monuments through the services of rangers and ranger naturalists, proper marking of trails and points of interest, and the educational and informational publications of the Service. This same policy should be applied to the development of a national recreational program on the ground that this phase of the movement is essential to make recreation a contribution to producing a whole individual by assisting the individual to achieve proper social adjustment in order that he may live a full, useful, and complete life.
The National Park Service sees its future participation in the Nation-wide park and recreational movement in the light of the necessity for cooperative planning and direction for the advancement of such a program. As the Federal Government has assisted other important Nation-wide movements through financial aid and technical advice to the states and local governments, so it can assist this movement by providing the impetus which would be lacking were the states to embark on separate, individual programs without relation to one another. Federal and state cooperation in park and recreation work has become a firmly established practice since 1933. It is authorized by law under Act of Congress. Therefore, the ground work has been laid and the way is open for such cooperation to achieve the objective of a national recreation program as a contribution to the conservation of the human wealth of the Nation.
In the growth of this national recreation plan in the future, the position of the National Park Service will in general be that of technical consultant or adviser as it has been functioning up to the present time. This is indicated by the fact that the states have come to look upon this Service as the recreational authority of the Nation, to which they can turn for guidance in the planning and development of their parks and recreational area systems and programs.
When it was established, the National Park Service shouldered great responsibilities in administering and protecting the country's national parks and monuments. Those responsibilities have been enlarged until today the Service, through its cooperation with the states in their park development work, is recognized as the highest authority in the rapidly growing field of public recreation. To this broad work it contributes not only its resources of technical knowledge and experience, but the high ideals of public service with which it was stamped in the beginning by those who fostered its establishment out of love of the Nation's richest treasuresthe National Parks.