The Regional Review

Volume V - Nos. 2 & 3

August-September, 1940

An Outline for Argument

The plan for almost any kind of creative accomplishment will possess merit in proportion to the ability of the planner. He must possess virtues of judgment, originality, imagination, and technical vision. This sounds like a complicated axiom, but if stated another way it means simply that a good planner analyzes his problem, establishes a sound fundamental design for the structure itself, and then by logical and orderly means completes the various phases of the plan until at last he draws the detail of the keyhole and his work is finished.

Ability to give proper emphasis to important problems appears to be one of those elusive virtues that often are the most difficult to cultivate. Too often it is lacking entirely and we find ourselves engrossed in the problem of designing a keyhole before we know much about the house itself. From the standpoint of planning, such an oversight is just as regrettable as being lost on a detour when we really think we are on the main highway.

In the early days of federal participation in the state park field some states attempted a planning program which often had as its ultimate goal the assignment of a specified number of Civilian Conservation Corps working days to a particular job. Work was started regardless of the needs of the area or the ability of the sponsor to maintain and care for this offspring of an emergency. It was not long, however, before state park master plans were a vital part of the program and master planners were absorbed in studies and meditations which soon placed the emphasis on a logical and orderly use of each unit of the park.

The evolution of the thing, so far, sounds reasonable, and planning could have been restricted to this field indefinitely had it not been for an interruption by some visionary genius who must have asked himself some embarrassing questions and forthwith set about to answer them to the satisfaction of all concerned. Where is this thing headed and what is proposed in the way of a solution? They were among the questions this crystal gazer propounded to himself. His answer, in part, was the Park, Parkway and Recreational-Area Study, which provided for an inventory of the past and present accomplishments in the field. He also prescribed the wise specification which called for a state park system master plan which would be a normal complement of this study. The former in many instances is now a matter of record; the latter unfortunately is largely a subject of open discussion of a general ideal which has not yet been reduced to a concrete or specific form.

It is far from the purpose of this discussion to arrive at a definite conclusion relative to the state park system master plan. Such a prodigious task would justify considerable investigation and study by experts and consultants whose ideas would have to be coordinated by a regional planner in order that a practical solution be obtained. The purpose here is merely to start something that may focus attention on the broader and more important aspects of planning by beginning with the Recreation Study as a, framework and following it through the various progressive steps which will lead finally to a plan for a state park system.

A master plan for an individual area is subject to frequent revision according to changing conditions. It must be studied with an eye to the future by anticipating a normal increase in facilities and uses. It must recognize the need for the preservation of basic characteristics in order that important cultural assets may not be sacrificed unwisely to mass recreational demands. Yet the fact that the plan must be revised from time to time is no reason for concluding that it has only transient values. If the first master plan does not present a final proposal it at least serves as a basis for further study.

Likewise, the master plan for the system will require changes as the picture becomes clearer. It is logical to conclude that if the master planner must analyze and study the proposed use of an individual unit of the system, then the problems of the planner of an entire system will be proportionally greater, both in the office and in the field. This plan can hardly be based on horseback estimates or produced by side walk superintendents. It cannot be determined by armchair executives. The plan for the system should reflect the sound judgment and experience of a group of experts who are trained in the planning of an extensive region.

The supply of regional planners is limited and it is doubtful whether more than a few states will be in a position to benefit from their services. What about the progressive states that wish to follow up the analyses and recommendations of the Park, Parkway and Recreational-Area Study? Who can assume the responsibility for assembling the plan for the system and for continuing its study? Certainly, if such a plan must be produced by those who are inexperienced in a study of this magnitude there should be available to them certain basic information which will reduce the probability of costly experiments to a safe minimum. Just for a start, an attempt has been made to establish a logical order of things in the form of an outline. Like the first master plan for an individual park it is only the beginning of an idea.

Tabulations and outlines are boring. They are like monthly bank statements or conference programs which are of interest only when we are confronted with an overdraft or a speech. They cannot be read as fiction; they must be studied before any reason or order can be derived from them. Outlines are, however, simple vehicles for recording the results of an analysis, and are of real value in determining the relative importance of allied subjects. The one presented below has been prepared for the purpose of inviting comments which, it is hoped, may lead to the final adoption of a standard outline of procedure, supplemented by acceptable statements of policy and the establishment of reasonable standards.


A. Determination of the scope and standards tor a state park system. A preliminary plan and statement of policy, to define the extent of the system and to determine qualifying specifications tor the control of the system.

I. Determination of the character of the areas. Based on a study of the various scientific and scenic zones of the state, in order that the system may be a representative cross section of the state's cultural and recreational resources.

II. Location of areas needed. Based on data provided in the Park, Parkway and Recreational-Area Study and on the existence of areas which conform to established standards.

III. Establishment of minimum standards for various classifications of areas to be included in the system.

IV. Enactment of basic legislation to provide legal authority for all phases of the program and to secure adequate appropriations.

V. Headquarters, organization and personnel. Specifications for personnel responsible for a state park system will be higher than for a few disconnected areas.

B. Land Ownership.

I. Existing Areas. Those in operation, those under development, and those being held for future development.

a. Acquisition for scenic or marginal protection where needed.
b. Acquisition to supply areas for immediate needs.
c. Acquisition for future expansion of uses.
d. Acquisition to avoid competition.

II. Future Areas.1

a. Study of trends and related future public and private demands.
b. Acquisition of areas for future use. The creation of a state park system will depend largely upon the good judgment, foresight and progressiveness behind the acquisition program. State ownership of reservations should be accomplished early in the program, but should not result in premature state park developments.

III. Method of Acquisition.

a. Donations of lands by individuals, communities or groups.
b. Donations of funds by individuals, communities or groups.
c. State purchase. When above methods fail and justified in the public interest.
d. Right of eminent domain.
e. Dedication of the public domain.

IV. Assurance of Fee Simple Land Ownership.

C. Classification of Areas in the System.2

I. State Parks. Areas meeting the highest standard of cultural importance.

II. State Recreation Parks. Areas where a combination of cultural and recreational uses is predetermined which can be combined without sacrifice of either value.

III. State Recreation Areas. Located near population centers where facilities are demanded but where areas of higher standards are not available.

IV. Parkways, monuments, waysides, etc. To be included in the system in conformance with established standards.

D. Planning and Development of Individual Units in the System.

I. Personnel, technical, nontechnical, facilitating.

II. Boundary and topographic surveys.

III. Analysis of existing and potential values. To determine logical uses and to protect against misuse.

IV. Master Plan. Conserve first, develop second, overdevelop last.

V. Detailed Plans. Adoption of appropriate standards of technical design which will conform with the character and use of the area as well as meet budgetary requirements.

VI. Construction.

E. Administration and Operation.

I. Central Control vs. Decentralized Districts.

II. Personnel, administrative, supervisory, technical, nontechnical, etc.

III. Policies. To determine a standard or scale for the guidance and control of the system and organization.

IV. Activity Programs.

V. Public Relations and Education.VI. Property, equipment, fiscal control.

F. Growth of the System.

I. Continued study of the system to assure progress and to improve statewide service and facilities.

II. Study or growth in individual units. To meet public demand and at the same time preserve the character of the area which creates that demand.

III. Acquisition of state park "reservations" in advance of future needs before valuations become prohibitive.

The above outline is a preliminary gesture in the direction of an orderly proposal. It suggests a basic plan, the acquisition of areas, their classification, planning, development, administration, operation, and future growth, as a logical sequence of steps, each of which is vital to the building of a state park system. It is evident that confusion would result were one step omitted or one phase of the program attempted before the preceding phase had reached a satisfactory conclusion.

For the benefit of those states that must forego the services of consultants and regional planners it is hoped that this outline will encourage the publication of discussions on each heading and subheading until all are developed by competent authorities. Without such guidance it is probable that attempts to produce a state park system master plan will fall far short of the goal intended by the originators of the Park, Parkway and Recreational-Area Study.

1Cf. C. R. Vinten, "Looking Backward to See Ahead," The Regional Review, Vol. II, No. 5, pp. 15-17.

2According to analysis of Colonel Richard Lieber. National Park Service consultant.

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Date: 04-Jul-2002