Volume I - No. 6
By Carl P. Russell,
Not many months ago I heard a speaker state,
publicly, "The National Park Service is progressing backward:
Progressing like a crayfish with its tail foremost and its eyes focused
upon past events." He used the warped simile to arrest attention. He
The National Park Service is not moving tail foremost nor does it have its eyes focused upon past events. Perhaps some of its critics manifest inverted vision.
After seventeen months of some association with the broad program of Region One I find it easier to look into the future than to review the events of the past. I do not mean to imply that there is no satisfaction in a backward glance; quite the contrary. My Region One assignment has been a most pleasant and enlightening experience. But the future is so full of obvious opportunities that it presents a picture stirring to contemplate.
One's eyes may be opened to those opportunities when he has gained a vantage point from which to look both forward and back. He sees for example, that the so-called expansion of the National Park Service program is not merely the assumption of added new duties by certain units of the Service, but that it is the manifestation of an advance in sociological thinking; the result of a public action that has brought about a new attitude toward parks generally. It is a trend which the public itself may not wholly understand. Perhaps it should be elucidated for the layman and park employee alike. I may say quickly, however, that it is not my intention to elucidate here.
As a regional worker I have been especially conscious of thoughts expressed by one or two cooperative friends outside of the Service who doubt the security of a Service program involving expansion into the general field of recreational administration. They have said with sincerity that they believe our participation in the administration of recreation on State Park areas, on Recreational Demonstration Projects, and elsewhere on Federally owned lands, will be accomplished at the expense of ideals and with dilution of administrative strength. It is not necessary to review the history and justification of the recreational study conducted by the Service. The story is readily available in the report, "Recreational Use of Land," by the National Park Service for the land planning committee, National Resources Board, Superintendent of Documents, 1938. That the conduct of this study has broadened the views of many Service officials is an obvious fact; that it has injected a new element into the Park Service personnel is likewise true, and it is agreed that it has demanded the best thought of some employees, who, except for the recreational program, could have applied themselves to studies in National Primeval Parks. But the important truth in this connection seems to be that ultimate gains will accrue also to the scenic parks since the recreational areas provided under the study are destined to relieve some of "the destructive effects of mass visitation" to National Parks, so feared--and reasonably so--by the same friends who look askance at the Recreational program.
I believe that our work in recreation and land planning plays a most important part in laying the foundation upon which rests the superstructure of the Service edifice. This long-range planning provides the equipment and develops the technique essential to proper handling of problems in National Parks. It orients the Service in the field of recreational problems and makes for discernment of critical spots in the Federal areas. Through it we are prepared to make proper appraisal of current methods used in meeting visitor demands in National Parks. One grasp of recreational problems in Tennessee brings direct results in planning for Great Smoky Mountains National Park; intimate association with the state program in California makes for intelligent procedure in Muir Woods National Monument. In short, the understanding of broad recreational needs in the entire United States that the Service thus has gained gives the very best preparation for the administration of National Parks. Being so prepared we may hope to solve the rather staggering problem of how to preserve the National Parks and at the same time make them available "for the enjoyment of the people,"--a dual responsibility imposed by law when the Service was established.
To those old friends in the field who have not had occasion to enter into the administrative scheme set up in the regional office I should like to say that a remarkable coordination of all activities characterizes the organization. Dividing lines between groups, regular NPS, CCC and ERA do not exist. Objectives in planning, development, preservation and interpretation are defined and known to all. The program of the region, varied as it is, is very well comprehended by each technician. All are working toward a common end in advancing the new park idea. Traditions are not forgotten but neither do they restrict in meeting new situations. The work of Region One differs widely from the early program of work in western parks but it is no less a thrilling program, and definitely it is as great an undertaking in service to the public. The responsibility of the historian is notable and the approach of every worker involves consciousness of historical values. The ideals of preservation of the American scene are quite as applicable in historical areas as in primeval areas. The technique, of course, is specialized and therein lies some of the distinction of Region One. Responsibilities of the recreation specialist, the historian, other technicians and the general administrator are focused upon problems in State and Federal areas, alike, in good coordination. In the more than 300 areas with which the region is concerned is presented a cross section of the Eastern United States, - geology, biology, prehistory and history. In the Region One staff is found a group of workers capable of preserving and presenting that great picture.
The suspected "dilution of administrative strength" has not been felt. On the contrary administrative offices are so adequately filled as to maintain a most satisfying and continuous supervision of the long time program and, at the same time, provide great flexibility in the assignment of executives to the many special tasks of importance which arise in the field. The capacity of individuals holding key positions has been tested by long trial and the mobility of this central administrative staff is adequate.
In the will of the forty men holding responsible administrative positions in Region One to adhere to ideals of public service lies an administrative strength that, in my opinion, will withstand any critical scrutiny. In addition to some 45 state, county, and metropolitan commissions, and more than fifty National Park Service Superintendents and Custodians, this group of executives deals with scores of organized bodies of private citizens. The record of transactions and evidence of progress reveal a notable success in meeting the exacting demands of nearly half the nation. My congratulations go to the untiring leaders of the regional organization who, consistently, have applied themselves in advancing the defined program of work and in developing the regional consciousness of Service objectives now so evident throughout the States.
In coming to Region One, I anticipated pleasing associations and enlightening experiences. They have exceeded anticipations. I shall always be grateful to the many friends in the Richmond Office who have made my place in the organization a pleasant one and my path an easy one. Their self-effacing support has been all-important in the brief role I have played. They will, I know, give to Mr. Tillotson the same cordial welcome and unstinted assistance. Congratulations, "Tillie", on your prospects!
To all in the region I extend warm greetings and the best of Christmas wishes. I regret that I could not make personal calls in all of the areas where work is in progress, but I value the new friendships that I did make and I recognize in the projects inspected the new Service which holds a promise of horizons destined to persist.
It will please me to see Region One friends in Washington.
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