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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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K. National Recreation Areas (Reservoir-Related Areas)

Another new type of federal recreation area in the National Park System grew out of large-scale, multipurpose power development and reclamation projects such as the Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam) project. The Boulder Canyon Project Act, passed in 1928, authorized the Bureau of Reclamation to construct Boulder Dam on the Colorado River, thereby creating Lake Mead above the dam. As the largest artificial lake in the world at that time, Lake Mead would ultimately extend some 115 miles above the dam and have 550 miles of shoreline. The lake, together with adjacent areas, was reserved with the idea of making it a future national monument.

Boulder Dam was constructed during the years 1931-35. On June 22, 1936, Congress appropriated $10,000 for a study to determine the recreational possibilities at Boulder Dam and Lake Mead. The study was to be conducted by the National Park Service in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation. While the study was being conducted the Park Service commenced supervision of recreational development at Lake Mead with CCC enrollees. [92]

The study concluded that recreational possibilities were good, and a cooperative agreement was drawn up between the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service on October 13, 1936, providing that the Park Service would assume responsibility for all recreational activities at Lake Mead. Legal authority for such an agreement was contained in the act of June 30, 1932 (later amended on July 20, 1942), entitled "an act to authorize interdepartmental procurement by contract." The agreement was significant in that it established a new policy under which the National Park Service cooperated with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps Engineers in the administration of recreational areas of national importance resulting from the impoundment of waters by large dams. [93]

Under the provisions of the cooperative agreement, the Bureau of Reclamation retained jurisdiction and authority over Boulder Dam, all engineering works associated with it, the land adjacent to the dam, and the administration of Boulder City and all activities located within its boundaries. The National Park Service had jurisdiction over the remainder of the Boulder Canyon Project Area, including the airport on the outskirts of Boulder City and authority and responsibility for all activities conducted thereon. These activities included the administration, protection, and maintenance of recreational activities and facilities, construction and improvement of roads and trails, and preservation and interpretation of several Indian sites and a variety of natural history points of interest Among the recreational facilities that the Park Service would administer and further develop were campgrounds, picnic areas, boating docks and ramps, horse trails, and bathing beaches. [94]

In June 1937 Director Cammerer observed that the "value and national importance of the Boulder Dam recreational area was proved by the public use of the area during the past year and by the vast scientific interest in it displayed by specialists in many fields." [95] On August 11, 1947, the name was changed from Boulder Dam National Recreation Area to Lake Mead National Recreation Area. [96] By 1952 Davis Dam had been completed downstream, impounding 67-mile-long Lake Mohave whose upper waters lapped the foot of the dam. The Park Service accepted

responsibility for recreational activities around Lake Mohave as part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and on October 8, 1964, this area, consisting of nearly 1,500,000 acres, was formally established as a unit of the National Park System. [97]

The Boulder Dam National Recreation Area set a precedent for the Park Service. In 1946 Coulee Dam National Recreation Area was established under an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation that was patterned after the Boulder Dam cooperative agreement. Between 1952 and 1962 three more such areas were established--Shadow Mountain in Colorado; Glen Canyon in Arizona-Utah; and Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity in California. By 196.4 application of the national recreation area concept to major impoundments behind federal dams, whether constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation or the Corps of Engineers, appeared to be well-accepted by Congress. Eight more reservations of this type were authorized as additions to the National Park System between 1964 and 1972. [98]

Chapter Four continues with...
National Seashores


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

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