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NPS Expansion: 1930s







New Deal



NPS 1933-39




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

Chapter Four: New Initiatives in the Field of Recreation and Recreational Area Development
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E. Implementation of Park, Parkway, and Recreational-Area Study

An outline of the procedure to be followed in conducting the recreational study was published in January 1937. According to the document, the scope of the study was defined as follows:

The study that is conducted within each State should be as complete as possible, in order that adequate recommendations may be made and so that the National Park Service may make a comprehensive report on a Nation-wide basis. Such a study must include an inventory and analysis of existing park, parkway and recreational facilities whether Federal, State, county, municipal, or private and existing plans or proposals for future development; potential areas studies for possible acquisition and development by any of these agencies, an analysis and appraisal of findings; and recommendations. [29]

In terms of organization the National Park Service, through its Branch of Recreational Planning and State Cooperation under Conrad L. Wirth, would administer and coordinate the study on a nationwide basis with the cooperation of park, conservation, and planning agencies of the states, their political subdivisions, civic groups, and local organizations. The staff in the Washington office would work through the regional office staffs whose field supervisors and representatives would coordinate the study with the various state and local agencies.

The study had three major objectives:

  1. Secure factual material and available data relative to existing facilities, population, and potential areas

  2. Make an analysis and appraisal of the findings

  3. Formulate definite plans and recommendations for meeting the present and future recreation needs of the nation. [30]

By June 15, 1937, the National Park Service had developed a policy outlining its relationship with the agencies of the various states and their political subdivisions in carrying out the Park, Parkway, and Recreational-Area Study. A method for creating a study organization in each state was developed, and the scope of the federal government's authority to assist the states in forming interstate compacts was defined. [31]

In his annual report in 1937, Director Cammerer listed the expectations that the agency had for the study. The study was expected to result, he said,

in the preparation and adoption of a comprehensive plan to serve as a guide to the States and be the basis upon which future cooperation will be extended to the States by this Department in the planning, acquisition, and development of park, parkway, and recreational areas. Similar studies also will be made on a regional basis--chiefly in areas near large population centers and frequently covering sections of two or more States--and on a national basis. [32]

In February 1938 Director Cammerer was more explicit in defining his expectations of the study. Commenting on the urgent need for a coordinated study and integrated approach to the country's fast-growing recreational needs, he observed:

In many States there is at present no general recreation policy. Three distinct steps were indicated in the tentative report on park, parkway and recreational area study: first, location of the site and compilation of data pertaining thereto; second, reconnaissance investigation in order to determine areas worthy of consideration; and third, actual investigation and appraisal of potential resources. From the inventory of potential areas will be selected those most suitable for development to meeting existing needs; areas that should be acquired and held for anticipated future needs; and areas that should be conserved because of unusual scenic, historical, or educational value.

No fixed precedents for such studies existed; they must be considered as exploratory. Use of recreational areas is a social activity, and the basis of all social activity is people. Around people--populations--all recreational planning should center. [33]

During fiscal year 1938 arrangements were completed in forty-three states for the conduct of the Park, Parkway, and Recreational-Area Study and tentative final reports were completed for Illinois, Mississippi, Virginia, Nevada, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. These reports contained preliminary plans and recommendations for meeting the recreational needs of each state. Districts of heavy population had been scrutinized, and their recreational needs analyzed along with sociological profiles and economic studies and such related analyses as transportation facilities. Existing parks and potential areas had been studied as well as the physiography, archeology, climate, history, and social composition of the states. The preliminary studies were reviewed and approved by the National Park Service as the basis for further study and returned to the states with detailed suggestions for their completion. [34]

By June 1939 a total of twenty-three state reports had been completed, and fourteen had been published by the states. Work was being continued toward the preparation of more complete and comprehensive plans for integrated systems of recreational areas and facilities based upon suggestions by the Park Service and state agencies. To correlate the plans of the states and provide the framework for a national recreation plan, the Park Service had commenced the preparation of the first edition of the nationwide report. [35]

Seven state reports were completed during fiscal year 1940 and four more in fiscal year 1941, making a total of thirty-four completed. [36] In 1941 the Park Service published its comprehensive report, entitled A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem in the United States. The report contained a review of the entire problem of recreation and of the status and needs of the national, state, county, and municipal park systems in the United States. The topics covered in the report were: recreation habits and needs of the people; aspects of recreation planning; existing public outdoor recreation facilities on city, county, state, and federal lands; park and recreation area administration, including organization, operations, personnel, budget, and public relations; finance; and legislation at all levels of government. The report included a brief description and a map of each state, giving physical characteristics, indicating the existing conditions of the state and local parks, and recommending additions and development proposals for the systems. [37]

Chapter Four continues with...
National Park Service Activities Relating to Park, Parkway, and Recreational-Area Study, 1936-1941


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

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