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A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem of the United States





Supplemental Foreword


Recreational Habits and Needs

Aspects of Recreational Planning

Present Public Outdoor Recreational Facilities




A Park and Recreational Land Plan

A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem of the United States
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Chapter II: Aspects of Recreational Planning (continued)


Planning for recreation is an integral and coordinate element of sound land planning for a city, a county, a state, a region, or for the whole Nation. Such planning will recognize that for certain lands recreation is the best economic and social use to which they can be put, regardless of other economic or social values that they may possess.

Fortunately, often—but by no means always—lands of low value for other purposes possess high value for recreation. Rough hills, rocky gorges, mountain tops, sand dunes, even deserts, are frequently susceptible of great recreational service. Even poor farm lands given proper care may, if properly located, be capable of providing much needed recreation, as abundantly proved by the recreational demonstration areas acquired and developed by the National Park Service. In many such cases recreation is the obvious best use; in others, decision involves a careful balancing of the potential recreational values against the other economic and social values which the area can supply. Recognition of recreational values as superior even to very great commercial values is attested in the case of scores of municipal and metropolitan parks and in those state and national parks which contain stands of merchantable timber, available power sites, lake, river, and ocean frontage which would be readily marketable for summer home sites, and a variety of other economic resources.

In some cases intrinsic values such as outstanding scenic features—indicate recreational use as obviously the highest and best use for certain areas. They possess qualities manifestly too rare and precious to be lost to the public. In a great many other cases, however, decision must rest upon such factors as need, location, accessibility, and capacity of any specific area to provide for the volume and kind of use required.

Planning by Regions. Recreational activities are, as a rule, not affected by political boundaries with in the Nation unless those happen also to be natural boundaries such as a large body of water or a high mountain range. It makes no difference to the Philadelphian whether he seeks his recreation in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, or Maryland—all within easy reach by automobile. More residents of Illinois than of Indiana use Indiana Dunes State Park. Choice of a recreational objective rests rather on such factors as amount of available leisure time and funds, means and ease of travel, and available facilities.

It is on such factors as these that the concept of recreational planning by regions is based. Regional boundaries may coincide to some extent with political boundaries, but in a country in which, generally speaking, State and county lines have been arbitrarily established, they do not normally do so. Recreational planning, like much other land planning, concerns itself ordinarily with two major types of regions. Of these one is the natural geographic region, such as New England, the Pacific Northwest, the Inland Empire, the Southern Appalachians each possessing a certain degree of cultural and industrial homogeneity, and each in at least some degree isolated from other regions which border it. The second is the metropolitan region, including one central metropolis, or even two or three, its or their satellite communities and such surrounding territory as is importantly affected by this major massing of population. While satisfactory planning is often dependent on acceptance of the region as a planning unit, accomplishment of the results of such planning still is dependent on the political action of those political subdivisions wholly or partly included in it.

Whether such regions possess recreational resources of sufficient interest to attract an appreciable volume of outside use or not, it may be said of each kind that the great bulk of the recreational requirements of its inhabitants, including all strictly day-use recreation, must be met within it, in spite of improved means of transportation and increased leisure time.

There have been a number of noteworthy regional plans formulated, chiefly for metropolitan regions, and the past few years have produced a good deal of planning for the geographic type of region. Success in such planning is dependent upon the fullest integration of city, county, State, and national programs; and success in accomplishment is equally dependent upon, first, a clear understanding of the part each political unit is to play, and second, adoption of such measures, concurrently on the part of each agency concerned, as are required for fulfillment.

An excellent example of such integrated planning is furnished by the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Metropolitan Region. The close relationship of urban and suburban recreation and recreation facilities has been recognized, following a long period of close cooperation between Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, by uniting park administration in the county park agency. Recently also, the State Planning Board, in cooperation with the Milwaukee County Planning Department, has made a special study of the recreational and conservation problems of southeastern Wisconsin, into which the Milwaukee County plans have been articulated. The findings and recommendations of this study have in turn been integrated with the State plan. The part each agency is rightly expected to play is clearly defined; the obligations of each have been carefully calculated so that each will bear its fair share of the cost and the responsibility for administration.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, charged with planning for a region which includes part of seven States, from the beginning recognized the necessity of including provision for recreation as one of the social necessities and, though not set up to develop and administer parks, it has done just that at several locations in order to provide demonstrations and examples, for the Tennessee Valley as a whole, of this one of several special and necessary uses of land.

Multiple Use. How many parks can we afford? How many acres will be required for recreation?

The answer to these questions is expected to be given in quantitative terms. But recreation cannot be measured quantitatively, because it is a quality of living. Who can say when our living is good enough? Yet, there are published statements that the present acreage of parks is all that the country will ever need. The only honest answer to these questions is, we believe, that the struggle to improve our living is a never ending one, and that so long as any cultural and recreative factor in our historical and natural resources is being needlessly destroyed it is a challenge to Federal, State and local governments to take appropriate steps for its preservation. Park status in such cases may be a more useful and productive status than any other, and present indications are that we can afford to live more generously than we have realized.

G. A. Pearson, in the March 1940 issue of the Journal of Forestry, says:

Foresters no longer believe that every acre of land that can be made to grow timber must be used for that purpose. One hundred million acres of productive and well-located timber lands could be made to produce annual yields far exceeding present consumption in this country. Additional areas to the extent of perhaps 300 million acres might well be kept in some sort of forest in the interest of recreation and watershed protection, and to provide a reserve acreage for timber production.

William B. Greely, in the November 1939 issue of American Forests, says:

The threat of a timber famine in the United States is passing. The public and industrial efforts in fire prevention and other essentials to forestry are bringing about a growth of timber more than adequate to supply all present requirements of consumption. The economic problem of forestry in the United States hereafter will not be how to supply enough timber for our requirements—but how to find sufficient markets for the timber crops that these great areas of land will increasingly produce. The forest problem, like the wheat problem or the cotton problem, is fundamentally one of markets.

If lands are no longer required for one use, it seems only common sense that we put them to another use. If lands are no longer needed for growing timber, for instance, or for some other industrial purpose, and they are of outstanding scenic and recreational character, would it not be simple wisdom to reserve them for recreational use? The answer would more often be in the affirmative, except that the multiple use theory obscures the facts by promising more than the lands can produce.

Under multiple use it is said that the commercial resources of a proposed park are so intertwined and are of such great importance that the only way the area can be profitably managed is to exploit all of the resources equally and simultaneously, and, that if this is done, the recreational resource will receive full consideration along with the rest.

It is a Utopian theory. In the first place, it does not recognize the nature of the recreational resource which consists of the other resources in combination. As much as you take from each of the component resources, by so much do you take from the combination. As numerous writers have pointed out, this system of management, failing to recognize the dominant resource of a given area, detracts from its value by giving equal opportunity for the exploitation of subordinate resources. This is apt to be little more than multiple abuse or a jumble of inconsistent uses.

There is no virtue in advocating multiple use of a watershed that is worth a thousand dollars an acre for water catchment purposes. By the same token, there is no virtue in advocating multiple use of an irreplaceable scenic resource that is of public inspirational value. To do so is to try to be all things to all people. This, the absence of planning, has been so widely accepted as a method of planning that it has become one of the greatest obstacles to sound land classification.

Multiple use is a common, and very often a good phase of land management. Actually, the term is not definitive. As it is commonly accepted, however, it means the specific brand of land management that sets multiplicity as its objective and permits an equal rating of resources.

G. A. Pearson says:

The land management plan envisioned in this article conveys two conceptions of multiple use. In one, management is by units in each of which one use is dominant though not exclusive; in the other, all uses are accorded equal rank on the same area. . . . The second plan is applicable, theoretically where all factors are under complete control; but, because this situation can rarely be attained, the plan is adapted mainly to lands on which all uses are so low that priorities have no practical significance. Forest lands, both public and private, are now being handled, with minor exceptions, according to the second plan. In order to realize the highest values the trend must be more and more toward the first. . . .

Von Ciriacy-Wantrup, in the July 1938 issue of the Journal of Forestry, said:

Under the concept of optimum use there may be several uses. The idea, however, is not to have several uses always but to permit them if they are socially desirable. In many cases the optimum use will be a single use rather than some combination of several uses. In other cases it will be one dominant use and as many subordinate uses as do not interfere with the dominant use. In a few cases there may be two or more co-dominant uses of nearly equal importance.

Nobody could have any quarrel with multiple use as a descriptive term, provided it is only an incidental aspect of optimum use. A national park, for instance, which the multiple use exponents usually refer to as a single use form of land management, actually may provide several uses. It may provide vital watershed protection; serve as a wildlife sanctuary, as a natural and historic museum and place of public education; it may serve as a source of employment for local labor and a market for local products; increase the value of adjacent and tributary property and, at the same time, serve as a stimulus to national and international travel, which in turn stimulates a host of other industries. All these uses are incidental to the dominant use of the land for recreation. In such case the optimum use of the land includes several uses, but multiplicity is not the objective: it is an incidental, and even an accidental, phase.

It is believed that the exponents of multiple use really have optimum use in mind, for obviously multiplicity as such cannot be considered as an objective. It is almost certain that they have no thought but that the natural resources should be appraised with intelligent selectivity. If that is the case, then they should by all means recognize it and admit that they do not hold multiple use either as a formula for land management or as an objective. Such action would revolutionize public land management. It would lead to the classification of lands according to their best uses. It would mean, for example, as Pearson says, that "Livestock production like timber production would profit immensely, if instead of trying to utilize all land regardless of quality, the range industry were concentrated on lands really suited to it by climate, soil, and water facilities." It would mean that a national conservation program, insofar as the public lands are concerned, would be rational and flexible and that recreational lands would be classified as recreational lands rather than as forest or range or some other category for which they are largely useless. Such areas would be more apt to retain their distinguishing characteristics, and to render their maximum usefulness, if they were so recognized.

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