The Regional Review

Volume II - No. 5

May, 1939


On January 2, 1896, Thomas M. MacBride, professor at Iowa State University, presented before the Iowa Academy of Sciences a paper entitled "County Parks." Reproduced in Appleton's Popular Science Monthly, Vol. XLIX, pp. 369-373, July, 1896, it has been preserved as a late nineteenth century exposition of certain conservation-recreation principles which endure today. Its comparative antiquity renders it doubly interesting to sponsors of state, county and metropolitan parks. Said Professor MacBride, in part:

"If, in every county or even in every township, there ware public grounds to which our people might resort in numbers all the summer season, a great step would be taken for the perpetuation, not to say restoration, of the public health. We are proud to call ourselves the children of hardy pioneers, but much of the hardiness of those pioneers was due to the fact that they spent much of their time, women, children and all, in the out-of-doors. All the land was a vast park in which that first generation roamed and reveled. They breathed the air of the forest, they drank the water of the springs, they ate the fruits of the hillsides, plum thickets were their orchards, and all accounts go to show that hardier, healthier or happier people never lived. Such conditions can never come again, but we may yet by public grounds for public enjoyment realize somewhat of the old advantage.

"Again such parks as are here discussed are an educational necessity. Our people as a whole suffer almost as much on the esthetic side of life as on that which is more strictly sanitary. How few of our landowners have any idea of groves as desirable features of their holdings? If, in any community, a farm occurs on which a few acres are given over to beauty, the fact is a matter for comment miles in either direction. A county park, well kept and cared for, would be a perpetual object lesson to the whole community, would show how a rocky knoll or deep ravine on one's own 80-acre farm might be made attractive until presently, instead of the angular groves with which our esthetic sense now vainly seeks appeasement, we would have a country rich in groves comformable with Nature's rules of landscape gardening if not Nature's planting.

"In the third place, county parks would tend to preserve to those who come after us something of the primitive beauty of this part of the world as such beauty stood revealed in its original flora. I esteem this from the standpoint of science, and indeed from the stand point of intellectual progress, a matter of extreme importance . . . . But such is the aggressive energy of our people, such their ambitions to use profitably every foot of virgin soil that, unless somewhere public reserves be constituted, our so-called civilization will have soon obliterated forever our natural wealth and left us to the investigation of introduced species only, and these but few in number.

". . .That the effort will one day be made there is no doubt. Whether it shall be made in time to save that which Nature has committed to our hands is a question. . ."

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Date: 04-Jul-2002