Parks: The Challenge of Excellence|
by Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior
This article first appeared in
Trends in Parks & Recreation,
Volume 1 No. 1 - July, 1964
Stewart L. Udall
The park movement today is perhaps in the most
dynamic period of its history. Thus, it is particularly worthwhile for
this new publication, TRENDS, to ride the crest of the wave and signal
the ideas and events which are broadening the park course.
Increased population, increased leisure time,
increased mobility, increased interest in outdoor recreation, and
increased social sophistication are factors well known to parkmen. They
are factors which make the job of park land management a far more
complex situation than it was in 1916.
As recently as five years ago, the National Park
Service bore the paramount national burden of facilities for America's
vacationing public. Since then a multiple-use act has been passed by
Congress, making outdoor recreation an avowed purpose of the national
forests. Land and people-minded states like California, Pennsylvania,
New York, and Wisconsin, have approved bond issues for major park and
recreation land acquisition. Impressed by the importance of these
examples, Congress is currently considering the Land and Water
Conservation Fund bill, which will make Federal matched funds available
to all states for conservation planning, acquisition, and land
A keystone in the endeavor to build an adequate
people/land ratio is a series of proposed federal recreation areas:
Tocks Island, Fire Island, Assateague, Bighorn Canyon, Oregon Dunes, and
Ozark Rivers. These areas have been conceived for high-density
visitation, and their proximity to population centers means that they
will fulfill the recreation requirements of millions of Americans who
desire to vacation outdoors.
The pressing complexities of our times further
necessitate additional areas where solitude can be known, where
Americans can touch the slow swing of the seasons, and learn in depth
the natural processes of this planet. I was impressed last September at
the Nairobi meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature and Natural Resources by the degree to which our world-wide
conservation colleagues expect the United States to protect its wild
park treasures as the heritage of all mankind.
Redwood National and State Parks
The degree to which this country can maintain
wilderness and civilization side by side will mark our success as
conservation planners. We have lost all save a few fragments of the
Indiana Dunes. We have a Redwood remnant in the State of California,
where by cutting and pasting and praying we may yet save a national park
opportunity from the leveling tread of civilizationif we are lucky.
There will be but a few more great national parks, and the larger task
ahead will be that of preserving these treasures for posterity.
We are stepping into a new era of creative park
management. The park experience is essentially a qualitative experience,
and park managers are finding that their domain spans the most
imaginative concepts of architectural design and spacial utilization,
with the deepest insights in the realms of ecology.
The challenge of excellence is on all sides. Parkmen
are challenged in the taste and design of campgrounds, facilities, and
roads they construct, and are challenged more fundamentally in cases by
whether to construct at all. Increasingly, it is being found that
arrangements with complimentary agencies outside park boundaries can
provide requisite facility expansion. Scenic and conservation easements
and other voluntary devices are enabling parks to radiate an enjoyment
of nature in more and more communities every day.
As a people, Americans have become obsessed with the
sedentary mobility and speed that their automobiles provide, and in
terms of park visitation this attitude often limits the outdoor
experience to a surface glance. The Long Range Study of the National
Park Service emphasizes that while adequate provision will be made for
automobiles, a greater encouragement will be given visitors to leave
their cars and enjoy a sojourn in nature, away from the roadway.
The importance of parks to science is growing as
eminent scientists from all over the world recognize that these reserves
are the ultimate stronghold of unmodified life processes. Science is
making an increasingly important contribution to park management as the
results of basic research are applied in developmental decisions.
Of all professions, the park profession has a chance
to deal in superlatives. Its leaders are taste-makers, and they must be
ambassadors of aesthetics, of good land use, and of national