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NPS Expansion: 1930s







New Deal



NPS 1933-39




Expansion of the National Park Service in the 1930s:
Administrative History

Chapter Three: Impact of the New Deal on the National Park Service
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D. Public Works Administration

In his 1933 annual report Director Albright observed that the allocation of funds under Title II of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which provided for the establishment of the Public Works Administration, [30] would assure "continuation of greatly needed road and trail construction and the various types of other physical improvements which are required in the administration, protection, and maintenance of the national parks and national monuments." Public Works Administration approval of public works projects, drawn up by Park Service Chief Engineer Frank A. Kittredge, amounting to $17,059,450 for road and trail work and $2,145,000 for other physical improvements (i.e., buildings, sewer and water systems, telephone lines, fences, cabins, etc.) would "result in construction of an orderly program based upon advance planning" and would "afford maximum relief to the unemployed." The selection of projects would "also provide the greatest possible spread among the far-flung parks and monuments under the jurisdiction of this Service." [31]

In June 1935 a "Statement Regarding PWA Activities in the National Park and Monument System" was prepared. The statement summarized the impact of Public Works Administration projects on the Park Service:

Ever since the establishment of the Public Works Administration the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior has found itself enjoying some of the thrills of Aladdin. Availability of money and men brought about the magical materialization almost over night of important recreational and educational objectives long projected, but delayed for lack of appropriations. . . Included in the programs of development prepared on a long-term planning scale were operations as simple as ditch-digging; as technical as surveys for museum construction. . . .

Every dollar spent conferred and received maximum benefit. A spread of work was accomplished that aided professional and white collar people as well as those in the unskilled groups. The projects so developed and increased the attractions of our great national parks and historic shrines that millions of visitors sought their health-giving solitudes and the inspiration of their beauty. This increased travel, multiplied industrial opportunities, and stimulated trade among all groups catering to transportation and sports needs.

The statement went on to list the types of projects that had been carried out with PWA funds. These included: roads, [32] trails, and bridle paths; campground development; museum construction; and studies,restoration/stabilization of historic structures and ruins such as the Lee Mansion in Arlington National Cemetery and the prehistoric ruins at Mesa Verde. Such efforts were carried out with "scrupulous care not to mar the effect of peace, space, and scenic loveliness" of the parks, thus necessitating "surveys, topographical and landscape studies, type-mapping and policies of wildlife protection." Hence the PWA projects brought "to thousands of engineers, landscape architects, artists, scientists, and students their first employment since the beginning of the depression." The PWA allotments and labor "made possible work long desired and outlined" which would have had to await realization for many years to come had they not been incorporated in the national economic recovery program. [33]

In 1936 the PWA allotments for public works projects in the national parks increased by more than $2,000,000 over that for the previous year. The increase resulted from larger allocations for the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Painted Desert Inn in Petrified Forest National Monument, purchase and installation of museum equipment under the direction of Carl P. Russell throughout the park system, and the Union Square and Mall developments in Washington, D.C. [34] The following year the PWA allotment was increased another $1,500,000, primarily for use in land acquisition for recreational demonstration projects. [35]

In fiscal year 1939 PWA funds made possible the construction of a number of long-needed building projects including administration buildings at Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, and Olympic national parks and Muir Woods National Monument. Acquisition and development of large tracts of additional land adjacent to established national parks with PWA funds necessitated general development studies covering the Redwood Mountain area near General Grant National Park and the pending seacoast addition to Olympic National Park. Work on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which was acquired with PWA funds, became a major project as extensive property, topographic, and hydrologic surveys were made in connection with its acquisition and planned restoration and development as an historical and recreation area. [36]

Chapter Three continues with...
Works Progress Administration


Last Modified: Tues, Mar 14 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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