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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
National Park Service Arrowhead

Chapter IV: Administration (continued)


Selection, planning, and development, whether of single areas or systems, must be based on some sort of policy, expressed or understood, if it is to be anything but a haphazard and disordered process. Comparatively few States, unfortunately, have attempted to formulate in specific terms those principles and policies which are to govern the whole process of planning and development, including the first step, that of selection. Unfortunately, also, areas selected and the quality of development given them in many instances all too well illustrate the consequences of lack of policy.

Because they indicate, in varying degrees, the scope of such statements of policy, there are reproduced here those formulated for the States of New York and South Carolina.

That for the State of New York was formulated in 1929 and 1930 by the State Council of Parks, and is probably as comprehensive as any that has been issued by a State. Headed Principles Governing the New York State Park and Parkway System and Rules for the Extension of the System, it reads as follows:

PRINCIPLES GOVERNING PARKS. The State is committed to the development of a unified park system developed on a regional basis. There are ten park regions including the forest preserve region. These park specifications apply to all regions except the forest preserve, the development of which is governed by totally different considerations. The State program for each region is based primarily upon scenic attraction and recreational needs. An even geographical distribution of "a park every 50 miles" or "a park for every county" is manifestly impossible on account of scenic, recreational and other requirements, and because it is fundamentally unscientific.

A park site should possess both conspicuous scenic and recreational value, or at least some scenic value and very unusual recreational possibilities.

By conspicuous scenic value is meant rare natural scenery which is unlikely to be preserved for enjoyment by the public of this and future generations if the property remains in private hands, and which is sufficiently distinctive to attract and interest people from distant parts of the State as well as local people.

By conspicuous recreational value is meant topography, trees, vegetation, streams, lakes, or ocean shore, which will attract and interest people of a wide surrounding area and which would not be available to the public if the property remained in private hands.

In the absence of striking scenic value, this may be compensated for by very unusual recreational value such as is represented by a very fine bathing beach or by an exceptional location with respect to population centers and main arteries of travel.

The State parks should be sufficient in number to meet the prospective demands of the people of each region over and above facilities which are or should be provided by local, city, county, town and village parks, and without requiring a State park budget which is unreasonable or excessive in the light of other financial demands. * * *


1. Minimum Area—Except in extraordinary cases the site should include not less than 400 acres of land well adapted for park use and development. Existing parks of smaller area should be extended to at least this minimum acreage.

2. Group of Smaller Units—In certain special cases, a group of smaller units may be desirable when the several sites are close enough together for a central management and it is not practical to acquire the land between units. This situation is illustrated by the several sites comprising the Niagara Reservation. Even here the ultimate objective should contemplate the connection of these units by a parkway or wide boulevard under park management. Small units along a State parkway for parking or picnicking are always desirable.


4. The Large Park Compared to Smaller Parks—It is better to concentrate on one large fine park than to scatter efforts over a number of smaller parks in the same neighborhood.

5. Requirements for New Parks To Be Increasingly Strict—The establishment of new parks must not be carried to an extent which will interfere with the proper development of existing parks. For this reason the requirements for new park sites must become increasingly strict. A State park should be developed in a dignified and substantial manner and park funds should not be scattered over so many sites as to result in partial or improper development.

6. Historic and Scientific Features—The value of a State park site is enhanced if it contains historical and scientific features which are interesting and educational, but such factors are incidental and not controlling like scenic and recreational requirements.

Sites which are primarily historical and scientific should not be administered by the park authorities which lack the interest and knowledge to care for them. No new sites of this kind should be acquired, and those now in existence should be transferred to the education department as soon as the legislature can make provision for a Bureau of Historic and Scientific Places in that department.

7. Type of Land To Be Taken—In general, the policy is not to take unattractive, open farm lands for park purposes, but to utilize property which cannot be farmed economically. However, this should not be construed to prevent taking necessary open land to provide entrances, parking areas, recreational fields. etc., as adjuncts to the main park area.

8. Woods and Water—A site possessing a fair percentage of wooded area is to be preferred. A stream, lake, or ocean shore with water of sufficient purity for bathing is practically indispensable. Parks without bathing facilities or the possibility of such facilities, or without water views are not desirable.

9. Cost of Land—The cost of land should be relatively low considering the section of the State in which the park site is located. Other things being equal, a site involving a small number of present owners is to be preferred.

10. Cost of Development—The park site must eventually have entrance and other roads, drinking water, sanitary facilities, central building, clearing of grounds, etc. A site which necessitates unusually large expenditures to provide for basic developments should be avoided.

Figure 24. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


Definition—A parkway is a narrow landscaped park with a pavement for motor vehicles running through it. Crossings at grade are eliminated and access is afforded only at fixed and specified entrances which are spaced a considerable distance apart and are not opposite each other.

1. Location—The State should establish parkways as distinguished from wide boulevards only through attractive country.

2. Width—In future the minimum width of a parkway right-of-way should be 300 feet. The average and maximum width should, of course, depend upon topography, cost, and other factors.

3. Crossings—No crossings at grade should be permitted, excepting over little-traveled roads, and even in the case of such roads, sufficient land should be acquired in the beginning for ultimate elimination. The question of whether a parkway should be elevated over a local or cross road, or whether the local or cross road should be elevated over the parkway should depend upon topography and cost. In flat country and especially in suburban centers every effort should be made to keep the parkway down. Other conditions being equal, the cost of elevating the parkway will be greater than the cost of elevating a narrower cross road, but the damage to adjacent property may be greater in the latter case. Sufficient land should be obtained at crossings so that no private property will be damaged by the elevation and to afford adequate space for planting and landscaping and for entrances.

4. Entrances—Public entrances should normally be constructed in connection with the elimination of crossings. There should never be less than two entrances in connection with a crossing, and these should be diagonally opposite each other. Entrance roads should approach the parkway pavement as nearly as possible at right angles, and of course, at grade. Private entrances should be granted only where substantial dedications of rights-of-way are made by private owners, or where land is sold by such owners to the State at considerably below market price, or where the absence of such private entrances affecting a considerable acreage of land would work a real hardship on the owner.

5. Pavements—The parkway should be paved with concrete or other hard-surface pavement. In order to avoid the glare and the whitish coloring of concrete, a surface treatment with a dark emulsion may be used, or a coating of bituminous macadam or some other similar material may be added.

6. Bridges—Bridges should be designed not only for strength but for appearance. Architects and landscape architects are fully as important in the design of parkway bridges as structural engineers.

7. Planting—Planting and landscaping of parkways is fully as important as pavement and bridges. No State parkway should be constructed without assurance of adequate funds for planting and landscaping as well as for maintenance after the initial planting is done.

8. Lighting—The lighting system on a parkway should be designed on the theory of silhouette illumination. The poles and fixtures should be appropriate and should blend with and fit into the landscaping and other parkway structures. The feed for the lighting system should be underground and no overhead wires of any description should be permitted.

9. Structures—There should be no structures along a State parkway excepting those purely incidental to its normal use as a driveway. If any filling stations are authorized they should be attractive in appearance and constructed from appropriate designs.

10. Zoning and Restrictions—The area adjacent to State parkways should be zoned wherever possible for the best type of private residence. This can be accomplished through cooperation with local governmental bodies. A State park commission entrusted with the care of parkways should follow every change in zoning ordinances affecting adjacent territory and all actions by the local board of appeals. Normally the State should attempt to have zoning restrictions established governing an area within at least 300 feet of the parkway. In some cases it may be found possible for the State to restrict adjacent private property by agreement with the owners, such restrictions to run with the land. This is a most desirable procedure where the owners will agree.

11. Other Restrictions—Normally all State parkways should be restricted to passenger cars other than busses. Only in the most exceptional cases should any other vehicles be permitted on the parkways.

12. Curves, Grades, Walks, Bridle Paths, Etc.—Normally there should be no curve on a parkway with a radius of less than 1,500 feet through flat topography; there should be no grade of more than 4 percent through flat topography or of more than 6 percent in rolling country. Wherever the right-of-way is sufficiently wide bridle paths and walks should be considered.

Adopted April 22, 1930, State Council of Parks.
HENRY F. LUTZ, Secretary.

Approved, May 1,1930,
ALEXANDER MACDONALD, Conservation Commissioner.

South Carolina, one of the States newly in the park field, frankly recognizes the problem imposed by the race segregation it is required to practice and by the vital necessity of providing proper recreational facilities for the Negroes who comprise more than 45 percent of the State's population. The Palmetto State has declared, through its State Commission of Forestry:

(1) That a State park must be an area of outstanding regional, scenic, historical, scientific, educational, or recreational value.

(2) That a park shall be located within 50 miles travel of every man, woman, and child in the State.

(3) That the area must be of sufficient size to meet the requirements of the activities which find their best expression in primitive settings. For development purposes topography, cover, water areas, and other natural resources have a definite bearing on this size but, in general, one thousand acres is minimum.

(4) That, because of the State's racial composition, two recreational area systems are necessary: one for white people and one for Negroes.

(5) That in the planning and development of the areas and facilities priority shall be given to those which serve mass needs. Therefore, the State shall first seek to meet the need for swimming, picnicking, and socialized mass activities.

Such statements of policy, which, for both these States, concern themselves with the principles of selection and, in very small degree, with the principles of development, could very well be supplemented, in every State, and by all park agencies, with similar enunciations of policy as to development and operation.

An official statement which appeared in the ninth annual report of the Department of Conservation of Indiana, illustrates the kind of statement of policy as to development and operation which, however much the policies themselves may vary among the several States, every State needs to formulate for itself, recognizing also that such statements should not be inflexible, but subject to change only when the conviction has been reached that changes are necessary and wise.

Says the Indiana statement:

. . . It seems that, within any given State, all park properties should be under the control of one governing body. Problems differ in many of the units, but their solution is made easier by the collected experience of a central office, and their policies more adequately carried on as a State Park policy. . . .

Into these parks crowd the vast masses of our industrial cities—a few aristocrats on foot, the remainder in cars. The first problem of administration is to answer their impulsive questions, Where do we go? What is there to see? What is there to do? These are important queries—the ones that brought them here. Some park authorities seem to think that the people will just naturally fall to, that they will find a proper camping-place, build a safe and sane fire, eat, be merry, clean up, and go home, and do all these most improbable things without ultimately ruining the very place they adore and immediately rendering it unsanitary and unsightly. A city is a livable place because sanitary precautions have been taken to keep the people from poisoning one another. What about the waters and the woods? The hot and stuffy city is a safer place, hygienically speaking, than the average run of summer resorts; and a State park will be no better unless all necessary safeguards are provided.

In our experience we have found that the comfort and well being of vast crowds can be best administered to by the use of one or more service areas. Within the main area are grouped the hotels, restaurants, lunch stands, shelter houses, cottages, garages, auto parking space, wash and toilet rooms, servant quarters, laundries, power and pump houses, garbage incinerators, septic tanks, etc.

Hotels and other food-vending places are under the supervision of the State. Our Indiana system of leasing the so-called "concessions" to carefully chosen managers is superior to letting them to the highest bidder or to the politically potent. We admittedly, however, are not automatically keeping up high standards—constant vigilance and admonition on the part of the State authorities are required. Let it be remembered that under our concession system all buildings and equipment belong to the State, with the exception of kitchen, pantry, and bedroom equipment which are furnished by the concessionaire. He also is responsible for all machinery in use.

Within the second area are provisions mainly for campers and picnickers, such as a safe supply of drinking-water, camp cooking places, sanitary toilets, etc. Safe bathing places along river banks and lake shores are indicated.

Altogether, the defined service area, serving as it does as a place of congregation and redistribtuion, handles large numbers with comparative ease. To it leads an unavoidable automobile parkway. From it radiate trails through woods and by shores. It serves, so to speak, as a filter. But, above all, it saves the landscape from ruin. It leaves this protected for the nature lover, student, artist, dreamer, and other impractical but socially highly important people. . . .

To a State developing a new State park system, I would submit the following list of "Do's" and "Dont's." It is a brief but safe program for administration:

1. Provide a well-planned service area.

2. Provide a safe and ample water supply.

3. Check its quality regularly in season by analysis.

4. Provide for sanitary sewage and garbage disposal.

5. Regulate quality and cost of food-stuffs and lodging.

6. Furnish fireplaces and free firewood to campers.

7. Stop the vandalism of picking or digging flowers and ferns, etc. (Best accomplished by appeals to the public.)

8. Keep a close watch for fires.

9. Avoid all artificial "improvements" in park proper.

10. Limit automobile drives to barest needs.

11. Construct easy and pleasant paths through woods and by waters.

12. Maintain service of nature-study guides.

13. Make small charge for parking and camping to assure proper maintenance.

14. Collect a small admission charge to park.

At the end of this list is a demand for a small admission charge. State parks ought to be made as nearly self-supporting as possible, or else the cost will have to be frankly put on the tax duplicate. In the first case, those who enjoy the park will contribute a small amount toward its maintenance; in the second, the taxpayer in the distant parts of the State who likely will never see the place, will be compelled, nevertheless, to contribute toward its purchase and maintenance.

So much for the administrative end of State parks. Its philosophy should be a minimization of useless effort on the part of the visitor and an enhancement of his appreciation of the natural charms and beauties of the place.

National Park Service Policy in Selection and Development. The policy of the National Park Service with respect to selection of areas for the status of national parks or monuments is now rather generally understood. The basic consideration is that any such area shall possess genuine national significance, even though it may in some cases involve a certain degree of duplication or repetition. Thus, Mount Rainier National Park contains as its central feature the highest of the western glacier-bearing volcanic peaks. However, its inclusion in the system is not considered to be a bar to ultimate inclusion of one or several others in the Northwest which contain such peaks, since they are likewise spectacular scenic features of national significance and possess striking individual characteristics. The new accepted classification—that of national seashore, not yet fully represented in the Federal system—involves no departure from this basic policy, since it is justified by the profound conviction that our remaining unmodified areas of seacoast are also fraught with true national significance.

Service policy has expanded during the present decade to the extent of recognizing that the recreational requirements of the country as a whole cannot be adequately met by the individual States when supplemented by a Federal system whose total content is limited to areas of national significance. It contends that there are areas of such extent and importance that they can and should render their service to a large region, embracing part or all of several States, but beyond the capacity of any single State either to acquire or administer. A complete and definite policy as to selection and development of such regional recreational areas, as parts of a Federal system is taking shape, but has not yet been finally formulated.

Developmental policies for national parks and monuments, whether primarily scenic, scientific, historic, or prehistoric in character, are reasonably well defined. Essential features of this policy are that:

1. No developments will be permitted in them which materially impair those features or qualities, the preservation and protection of which were the reason for their establishment in park or monument status.

2. Activities, recreational or otherwise, for which provision is made, shall be only those dictated by the character of the area itself, and desirable in order that the public may obtain the fullest possible enjoyment of those features or qualities on which its national status is based.

3. As large a part as possible of each national area shall be left completely unmodified, with access provided only by trail.

4. In every area the Service will endeavor to assist the public in understanding natural, historic, or prehistoric features, by such means as museums, trailside and roadside exhibits, guide service, publications, etc.

5. Suitable accommodations for housing and feeding visitors will be provided wherever possible, either by the National Park Service or by private operators. Commercial activities shall be limited to those essential to the care and comfort of park visitors.

6. Since all areas under National Park Service administration are established for the benefit of the whole public, no part of them shall be leased for the exclusive use of any person or group of persons.

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