Table of Contents
Parks and People
Evolution of a National Park Concept
Wildiands Designated...But Vulnerable
Creating a Service to Manage the System
Expanding the Scope
Revising the Mission
Rehabilitation and Expansion
Partners and Alliances
National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Expanding the Scope
Parks and People:
Preserving Our Past For The Future
by Barry Mackintosh
Bryce Canyon National Park visitors,
Queens Garden Trail, circa 1930.
(Courtesy of Union Pacific Museum Collection)
Expanding the Scope
Through the 1920s, the national park system was really a western park
system. Of the Service's holdings, only Lafayette National Park in Maine
(renamed Acadia in 1929) lay east of the Mississippi River. Reflecting
the Service's western orientation, its landscape architecture,
engineering, education, and forestry functions were headquartered in San
Francisco. Serving as superintendent of Yellowstone after 1919, Horace
Albright received the additional job of field assistant director in 1927
to better oversee the parks from that location.
If the park system were to benefit America's predominantly eastern
population and maximize its support in Congress, it would have to expand
eastward. Unfortunately, natural areas meeting national park standards
were less common in the East, and most eastern land was in private
ownership. In 1926 Congress authorized Shenandoah, Great Smoky
Mountains, and Mammoth Cave national parks in the Appalachian region but
required that their lands be donated. With the aid of John D.
Rockefeller, Jr., and other philanthropists, the states involved
gradually acquired and turned over most of the lands needed to establish
these parks in the next decade.
The Service's greatest opportunity in the East lay in another realm
that of history and historic sites. Congress had directed the War
Department to preserve a number of historic battlefields, forts, and
memorials there as national military parks and monuments. Chickamauga
and Chattanooga National Military Park in Georgia and Tennessee was the
first battlefield area so designated, in 1890, followed by Antietam
National Battlefield Site and Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg national
military parks. Civil War veterans who had fought at these places were
active in the campaigns for their preservation. Other War Department
parks and monuments included Fort Marion (later renamed Castillo de San
Marcos) in St. Augustine, Florida, Baltimore's Fort McHenry, Abraham
Lincoln's Kentucky birthplace, and the Statue of Liberty.
Road construction crew, Chickamauga and
Chattanooga National Military Park, circa 1900.
Albright, who had a personal interest in history, sought the transfer
of these areas to the National Park Service soon after the bureau was
created. After succeeding Mather as director in 1929, Albright resumed
his efforts. As a first step, he got Congress to establish three new
historical parks in the East under National Park Service administration.
Parts of two of these, Yorktown Battlefield at Colonial National
Monument, Virginia, and the Revolutionary War encampments at Morristown
National Historical Park, New Jersey, edged the Park Service into
military history, advancing its case for the War Department's areas. The
Service hired its first park historians at Colonial in 1931.
Albright's big moment came soon after President Franklin D. Roosevelt
took office in 1933. When Roosevelt went to inspect ex-President Herbert
Hoover's fishing retreat at Shenandoah National Park for his possible
use, Albright was invited to accompany him. On the return drive to
Washington through Civil War country, Albright turned the conversation
to history and mentioned his plan to acquire the War Department's areas.
Roosevelt readily agreed and directed Albright to initiate an executive
order to bring about the transfer.
Roosevelt's order, effective August 10, 1933, did what Albright had
asked and more. Not only did the Service receive the War Department's
parks and monuments, but it also achieved another long-time objective by
getting the 15 national monuments then held by the Forest Service
among them Timpanogos Cave in Utah and Walnut Canyon in Arizona. It also
assumed responsibility for the national capital parks, then managed by a
separate office in Washington. They included the Washington Monument,
the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and Rock Creek Park, a unique
urban natural area established simultaneously with Sequoia and Yosemite
national parks in 1890.
This merger of all the national military parks, national monuments,
and national capital parks in a single national park system had major
implications for the National Park Service. With the addition of nearly
50 historical areas in the East, the system and Service were now truly
national. Henceforth, the Service would be the leading federal agency
in historic as well as natural preservation, acquiring many more
historic sites and assuming important historic preservation
responsibilities beyond the parks. The national capital parks would
give it high visibility in Washington with members of Congress and
visitors from around the nation. Of necessity, the Service would become
a much larger and more diverse organization.