The Regional Review

Volume I - No. 3

September, 1938

progress chart
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


By Sidney S. Kennnedy
Park Planner.

One of the most significant present day factors in the park and recreation movement is the Park, Parkway and Recreational Area Study which is being conducted by the States in cooperation with the National Park Service. This, Study was authorized by an Act of Congress, Public 770-1/2, approved June 23, 1936, which provides for the collection of "data helpful in developing a plan for coordinated and adequate public park, parkway and recreational-area facilities for the people of the United States".

The Recreation Study is providing pertinent data for the formulation of policies for an integrated development of park and recreational facilities. It is taking inventory of existing facilities,, analyzing present and future needs, investigating potential areas and examining the financial resources of the States with the view toward establishing a system and administrative organization commensurate with their ability to pay. In addition to these major objectives, special studies are being made on a nation-wide basis, covering park use, fees and charges, legislation, organized camping, personnel, leadership training and programs, etc.

In general, the Study is based upon an approved procedure which is sufficiently uniform to permit comparison, analysis and study on a nation-wide basis and also to allow necessary adjustments to meet the requirements and conditions in each State.

The National Park Service has set up a small organization to co-operate with the States in carrying out this undertaking. A small staff of technical, administrative and clerical personnel in the Washington Office works through corresponding staffs in each of our four Regional Offices, which in turn have a limited number of State Supervisors. Each State Supervisor is assigned to a State or group of States and is the direct representative of the National Park Service in cooperating with the State agencies concerned.

The foundation for State cooperation and participation in the conduct of the Study was laid by Secretary Ickes in his letters, to the Governor of each State in November 1936, setting forth the objectives of the Study and asking whether the State desired the assistance of the National Park Service on this work. Almost every Governor replied in the affirmative. Definite working arrangements have been made in all of the States, except Montana, South Dakota and Vermont. Established State agencies, such as Conservation Departments, Park Commissions, or Planning Boards have been designated specifically by the Governors to be responsible for the State's participation in the conduct of the Recreation Study and to organize the assistance of other public and private cooperating agencies.

The serious interest of the States, in this work is shown by the fact that twenty States are contributing funds or detailing personnel specifically to assist in the conduct of the Study and seventeen others are making more limited contributions through the part-time assignment of regular personnel and facilities of State agencies. Twenty-four State agencies also have obtained WPA projects to assist in the conduct of their part of the Study.

Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia have already completed preliminary or tentative final reports, and it is expected that seventeen other States will have completed similar reports by the end of the calendar year. These reports vary considerably in scope and in the detail of analyses and recommendations. In general, the States which have had an established park organization for a number of years have proceeded further in the way of specific recommendations for perfecting and rounding out their systems and for providing for the recreational needs of the people. The other States have not had the springboard of experience from which to start and have necessarily had to proceed more slowly. Most of the reports have covered quite fully the inventory phase of the work. The reports for Louisiana arid New Jersey have been published by the States and the reports for Illinois and Nevada will be off the press shortly.

Material progress has been made in several of the special related studies enumerated above. The Park Use Study is being conducted in two hundred and ninety-two (292) State and local park and recreational areas throughout the United States by National Park Service, CCC, WPA, State and local personnel. The purpose of this study is to collect information on attendance, origin arid income of patrons, use of facilities, habits and interests, etc., which will be valuable in determining the adequacy of present facilities and the need for additional provisions.

A similar study made on eighty-six selected areas, in the Eastern and Southeastern United States in the summer of 1937 revealed a number of significant items: (1) approximately 88 percent of the visitors are urban or non-farm dwellers; (2) a majority of the patronage comes from within a 25-mile radius by highway of an area; (3) scenic resources or exceptional opportunity for swimming appear to be necessary to draw any appreciable patronage from beyond a 50-mile radius; (4) day use is confined almost entirely to a 25-mile radius except where an area is located on a main highway leading out of heavily congested urban centers; (5) Saturdays, Sundays and holidays draw about 60 percent of the total State Park patronage. 25 percent of the total weekly attendance comes on an average Sunday afternoon, while only 5 percent on an average weekday afternoon; (6) tourist use of State parks is negligible in comparison with total use, the average for all State parks in which records were kept being less than 5 percent; (7) patronage is about equally divided between men and women; (8) 77 percent of State park patrons are 18 years of age or over; (9) more than 55 percent of the park visitors in seven areas where special studies were made had an annual income of less than 42,000; (10) the average number of persons per car visiting all areas studied was approximately four; (11) less, than 50 percent of bathers, at park beaches use bathhouse dressing facilities; (12) the activities of visitors to State park areas appear to rank in the following, order: scenic use, picnicking, swimming, hiking, boating, sports, camping, horseback riding, fishing and nature study.

The above statements are illuminating. They cannot be considered conclusive, however, inasmuch as they are based upon incomplete data taken over a relatively short period of time.

During the past few years, upon request, the National Park Service has assisted and advised a number of the States in revising and drafting legislation relating to park and conservation activities. A number of these bills, have been enacted into legislation. During 1935 the Service compiled a three volume digest of laws relating to State parks and recreational functions and a digest of all laws relating to municipal, county and local park and recreation authorities and functions is now in course of preparation.

On July 1, 1937 the National Park Service inaugurated a study of maintenance and operation costs on forty-one selected areas. A uniform method of reporting expenditures gives a breakdown into the following classifications: Overhead, capital account and direct unit maintenance costs of separate facilities subdivided into labor, materials, supplies and equipment. It is expected that the resulting figures will reflect the best existing standards.

Last spring the National Park Service in cooperation with the American Institute of Park Executives initiated a comprehensive study of fees and charges covering the practices and policies of some 300 State and local park authorities throughout the country. The results of this, study will be made available during the coming year.

Since the beginning of the Recreation Study, the National Park Service has been cooperating with the American Camping Association and the States in conducting a census and study of organized camps throughout the country with the view toward obtaining a complete picture of this, activity and formulating certain policies and standards. The inventory has been completed or is well under way in all of the States, except Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Tennessee. The National Park Service Advisory Committee on Camping is interested in compiling data on the design, construction and operation of camping facilities on public areas and in formulating standards for health and safety.

Recreational Planning problems which are under consideration by the National Park Service Advisory Committee on Skiing include observation and reporting of snow conditions; first aid, health and safety for skiers; desirable practices in the design, construction and maintenance of winter sports structures and facilities; and desirable policies in the regulation and use of public lands for winter sports. A special study of winter sports structures and facilities is under way, and it is hoped that a monograph on this subject will be ready for publication sometime during the coming year.

A special study has been made from U. S. Weather Bureau records of snow cover conditions in New York and New England. The bulletin on this subject, which is now in preparation by Mr. Robert G. Stone of the Blue Hill Observatory, Milton, Massachusetts, National Park Service Collaborator on climatology affecting outdoor recreation, will include discussions, charts and data on the general nature of the snow cover, predictions of the probable frequency of snow at varying depths, methods of making snow cover observations, etc. It is designed primarily to help in planning skiing and other winter sports developments in the Northeast, but it will help in solving many other practical problems in the fields of hydrology, ecology, geography and industry. Similar studies have been made in Finland and the Alps, but not in such detail for so large an area.

A paper describing the method used in this study was presented by Mr. Stone at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D. C. in April 1938, and reprints of this, paper from the "Transactions" of the Union will be available in September.

Topics now under consideration by the National Park Service Advisory Committee on Hiking include desirable practices in the development of trails; first aid, health and safety for hikers and climbers; desirable policies in the regulation and use of public lands for hiking and climbing; development and protection of "trailways", and the distribution of hiking information.

Another objective of the Recreation Study is the planning of adequate parkways as integral parts of State recreational systems and the coordination of State parkway plans so that as parkways are developed they will fit into an interstate or regional system. Several of the tentative final reports which have been completed contain recommendations for new parkways. It is expected that parkways will receive more attention in the future and that the final State reports will contain definite recommendations. Special studies have been made for two proposed interstate parkways in the southwest. One would run between New Mexico and Arizona and the other between New Mexico and Colorado. In the midwest the National Park Service has been co-operating with Missouri and other States along the Mississippi River on preliminary planning for a parkway to extend from New Orleans to Duluth along the Mississippi River.

It has been realized that the appropriate use of park and recreational areas is fully as important as the provision of physical facilities. Park authorities are becoming conscious of the need for trained leadership which will assure the optimum use of areas and facilities with the resulting maximum benefit to the people. Because no provision for program leadership has been made in most of the State park systems, the National Park Service, in cooperation with State Authorities, the Works Progress Administration, and the National Youth Administration, inaugurated demonstration programs in a number of State Parks throughout the Middle West in the summer of 1937 and has continued this work in 1938.

An extensive leadership program is being conducted in the greater share of the State parks in Michigan and Wisconsin by means of personnel and supervision supplied by the Recreation Division of the Works Progress Administration. Similar programs are being carried out or are contemplated on several areas in Nebraska and Minnesota. A naturalist program is being conducted by means of State and WPA personnel in a number of areas in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri and throughout the State of Nebraska. Naturalist programs have been conducted on the Indiana State parks for a number of years. Several of the State Universities have assisted by conducting naturalist training schools and providing naturalist personnel in the State parks.

This past summer the National Park Service initiated a recreational program on the Federally owned Swift Creek Recreational Demonstration Area near Richmond, Virginia, for the purpose of demonstrating the value of such a program on a large natural area. A Recreation Council representing several communities was organized as a non-profit corporation and assumed responsibility for the organization of the recreational program. It is also responsible for the operation of the revenue producing facilities, the profits from which will be used to finance the program. Assistance in this work is also being received from the Works Progress Administration which is supplying fifteen recreation workers, including life guards, a music leader, a dramatics and dancing leader, an art and handcraft teacher, pottery teacher, two nature leaders, two bathhouse attendants and a games person. A clearing house has been set up in each community for scheduling events in the area and NYA workers were secured to communicate with organized groups in order to present the opportunities for group outings.

Millions of dollars are now being spent by the Federal Government in cooperation with State and local authorities on flood control, water conservation and power projects. In connection with the development of these areas the planning for recreational use is receiving increasing recognition, especially in the more arid sections of the country where water is at a premium. The National Park Service has been requested to advise on the recreational planning and development for a number of these projects and in every case has endeavored to correlate proposed developments with the State plan which is being developed under the Recreation Study.

The various items which have been discussed briefly above outline the scope and progress of the Recreation Study. Although the Study has not advanced to the point where definite conclusions may be drawn, it does point the way toward certain trends and to the solution of certain problems in the park and recreation field, as well as the development of certain planning techniques.

Several of the preliminary State studies, which give an over all picture and some general conclusion, indicate the desirability of continuing further study by regions and districts. Such procedure permits a more detailed consideration of the needs and special problems relating to the provisions of adequate areas and facilities. These district plans, however, will be geared into the comprehensive State plan. This method has already been found advisable and has been recommended in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

In general, State park areas and acreage, especially those devoted to active recreation and providing day use facilities with in reasonable distance of metropolitan centers, have been found to be inadequate.

The recommendations included in there preliminary reports indicate a growing recognition of the importance of strengthening the personnel and administrative set-ups and the correlation of the work of various recreational agencies.

It has been found that there are virtually no recreational facilities, available for the Negroes. This situation is especially serious in the southern states where the Negro population varies from 25 percent of the total population as in Tennessee to 50 percent as in Mississippi. All of the southern state preliminary reports completed to date contain definite recommendations for Negro recreation. Because of their economic conditions and lack of means of transportation, it appears that recreation areas must be provided within a relatively short distance from their homes.

Considerable discussion is contained in the reports from Louisiana, Mississippi and New Jersey regarding the potentiality and feasibility of providing extensive recreational opportunities for both children and adults in connection with school grounds under the direct supervision of the education authorities. The report of the New Jersey State Planning Board of May 1938 recommends that "new school grounds should be large enough to allow not only liberal play space for children enrolled, but to permit further use as neighborhood play centers.......This means increasing the school ground acreage to a size of from 15 to 30 acres......" It recommends also that small rural school grounds should be at least five acres in extent and provide a play area for organized games which might be used by the entire community.

The elimination of stream pollution is an important factor in the provision of opportunity for public recreation. The states have generally recognized its importance in conserving their recreational resources and a number of them are carrying out definite programs. The New Jersey report states that "The purification of streams is a critical and major problem of the state. Lakes, rivers and streams are among a state's most important natural recreation assets."

In conclusion, it is felt that substantial progress has been made in the various phases of the Recreation Study and that the co-operative arrangements with the States have laid the foundation for comprehensive recreational planning. It is expected that the Study will result in the preparation and adoption of coordinated and integrated plans for the provision of adequate recreation for the people .

boys at cdamp playing checkers
Boys' Organized Camp, Hard Labor Creek
Recreational Demonstration Area, Georgia

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Date: 04-Jul-2002