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cover to Family Tree of the National Park System
NPS Family Tree





Part I

Part II

Part III

current topic Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Family Tree of the National Park System
Part IV
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part IV


The long period between 1933 and 1964, which began with the need to assimilate 71 diverse areas into the System, was crowded with other events also tremendously important to the National Park Service. The early years were marked by the great social and economic changes in American life that accompanied the New Deal. Among many other measures in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted a broad program of natural resource conservation implemented in large part through the newly created Civilian Conservation Corps but also supported by other emergency funds. At the program's peak in 1935, the Service was allotted 600 CCC camps, 118 of them assigned to National Park System areas and 482 to State Parks, employing approximately 120,000 enrollees and 6,000 professionally trained supervisors, including landscape architects, engineers, foresters, biologists, historians, architects, and archaeologists.

The effects of the CCC and other emergency programs on Service management, planning, development, and staffing were profound. Within a few short years, however, came the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, and the nation turned sharply from domestic programs to total mobilization for World War II. Not only was the CCC dismantled with other emergency programs, but regular appropriations for managing the National Park System were cut from $21 million in 1940 to $5 million in 1943, the number of full-time employees was reduced from 3,510 to 1,974 or 55%, and visits fell from 21 million in 1941 to 6 million in 1942. There was only a brief lull after 1945 before military needs again became dominant with the outbreak of the Korean War.

During these years the integrity of the System required constant defense against wartime pressures. But peace finally came and the 1950's and early 1960's witnessed a tremendous increase in travel in our affluent postwar society with personal incomes and leisure time steadily increasing for growing numbers of people, most of whom also enjoyed much greater mobility in the automobile age. Visits to the National Park System mounted from a low of 6 million in 1942 to 33 million in 1950, and 72 million in 1960.

These and other changing conditions, including a great and growing backlog of deferred park maintenance and development projects, posed vast new problems for the Service and System. It was an era marked by the dramatic inauguration and prosecution of Mission 66, the emergence of a national "crisis in outdoor recreation," creation of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission and the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, and mounting national concern for better preservation of America's vanishing wilderness.

These sweeping social, economic, and political changes are far too important, complex and recent for more extended treatment here. We will focus our attention on only one aspect of this period—enlargement of the National Park System.

Between the Reorganization of 1933 and the Reorganization of 1964,1 102 areas were added to the System as defined today,2 increasing the total number from 137 to 239. These numerous and diverse areas were established under the able leadership of four successive Directors — Arno B. Cammerer, 1933-1940; Newton B. Drury, 1940-1951; Arthur E. Demaray, 1951 (after serving seventeen critical years as Associate Director to his two predecessors); and Conrad L. Wirth, 1951-64. These four Directors were vigorously supported by successive Secretaries of the Interior and worked closely with many members of Congress to bring about responsible growth of the System. They were aided, too, by an increasingly expert staff whose members, both in Washington and the field, contributed much to this work, including among others, Thomas C. Vint, long-time Chief, Division of Design and Construction; Ben H. Thompson, Chief, Division of Recreation Resource Planning; and Hillory A. Tolson, Assistant Director.

The distribution of the new areas among categories is significant. Of the new additions, 11 were Natural Areas, increasing their number from 58 to 69 or 19%. Seventy-five were Historical Areas, increasing their number from 77 to 152 or 96%. Fifteen were Recreation Areas, increasing their number from one to 16, or 1500%. It is clear that during this period the growth rate for Natural Areas noticeably diminished from previous levels and by comparison with the rate for other categories, even though very important additions of natural lands were still being made. On the other hand the growth rates for Historical and Recreation Areas accelerated sharply. It took the Service a generation, from 1933 to 1964, to assimilate these 102 diverse new areas and the 71 areas added by the Reorganization of 1933 and incorporate them securely into one National Park System.

During this period, with some exceptions, the Service tended to emphasize the similarities between areas while minimizing their differences. The System was administered under a single, uniform code of administrative policies derived historically from National Park experience and developed primarily for the management of Natural Areas. Special policies particularly applicable to Historical Areas, however, were gradually incorporated into the code—for example, the important restoration policy adopted in 1938. But more than any other factor, it was Mission 66, under the leadership of Director Conrad L. Wirth, that at long last provided the resources, beginning 1956, to bring all the individual areas, regardless of origin or type, up to a consistently high standard of preservation, staffing, and carefully controlled physical development, and to consolidate them fully into one National Park System. Mission 66 generated widespread interest and support for the National Park System among the American people and brought new vigor and momentum to all phases of National Park Service work.

1The precise period meant here is from June 10, 1933, to July 10, 1964, when a new organizational framework was adopted for the National Park System which clearly differentiated between natural, historical, and recreational areas.

2These figures include nine National Historic Sites and one International Park in non-federal ownership and five reservoir-related Recreation Areas established under cooperative agreements. Since Sept. 28, 1966, the Service has counted these areas as units in the National Park System.

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Last Modified: Sat, May 12 2001 10:08 am PDT

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