Recreational Use of Land in the United States
RECREATIONAL RESOURCES AND HUMAN REQUIREMENTS
5. SOME COMPETITORS OF RECREATIONAL LAND USE
Perhaps because recreation is more than just pleasurable physical exercise, perhaps because it partakes of the freedom of open country, the "competitors" which logically come to mind are those which directly affect the attractiveness of the open country. Some of these are: Private consumption of recreational resources, water pollution, lumbering, grazing, drainage, and artificial stream control.
The common desire to own a small segment of forested lake front or stream side for a summer home or resort is rapidly leading toward the exhaustion of this waterfront resource, insofar as its availability to the great portion of our population is concerned. The desirable and habitable areas can be quickly consumed by a relatively small proportion of the population. It is, of course, true that great recreational value may accrue to the occupants of such retreats, but the question arises: Is this luxurious and extravagant utilization of a limited resource the wisest use? When every choice lake front, stream side, and beach is taken by private homes, clubs, stores, amusement devices, and exclusive resorts, will the common demand for outdoor living have been satisfied? It is not probable.
Unnoticeable, at first, is the fact that some summer homes, dude ranches, and resorts occupy the strategic points which actually control the much larger hinterland. The wildernesswhether pristine or greatly modifiedis an organism. For example, if the stream banks, lake shores, and springs are taken by a relatively few residents, the whole area is, in effect, taken. Likewise, if a summer home is located at the mouth of a precipitous and scenic canyon or secluded mountain valley, the use of the entire canyon or valley is, in effect, preempted by the one holder, his family, and guests.
Examples of this sort of private consumption are to be found among the resort and summer-home colonies at Grand Lake and around Estes Park, Colo.; Lake Quinault and Lake Crescent, Wash.; some of the dude ranches of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado; and, in general, in the numerous strategically located private holdings around almost every lake in the East.
Let us take a specific example. At the south end of Grand Teton National Park lies Phelps Lakean unusually picturesque lake at the mouth of a precipitous gorge which cuts back into the Tetons. The trail to this section of the mountain hinterland leads up the gorge behind the lake. Until 1932 a private ranch controlled the lake. A mile away from the lake the public was halted by a fence and a "no trespass" sign which could only be hurdled at the price of $10 a day. This one ranch, then, not only consumed a beautiful lake and mountain setting but also controlled hundreds of square miles of superb mountain hinterland. This same case could have been repeated at numerous places along the base of the Tetons; in fact, this type of wilderness utilization would have had the mountain range completely locked and closed, except to a few people, had it not been for the establishment of Grand Teton National Park and the subsequent efforts of the Snake River Land Co.
The location of such privately owned recreational facilities frequently limits the use of vast recreational resources to a comparatively few individuals. Such is the manner in which large portions of this type of recreational resource are being dissipated. It is submitted, therefore, that the policy of permitting summer-home and resort sites within public lands of recreational value should be carefully reconsidered to the end that a more equitable and sustained use of the resource may be attained.