As we continue our celebration of the centennial of the National
Park Service, this month we explore another important period during NPS
history Mission 66. Initiated in 1956, the aim of Mission 66 was
to construct park facilities in preparation for the 50th anniversary of
the National Park Service in 1966. Over 100 visitor centers were
constructed, many of which are still providing essential visitor
The following account of the Mission 66 Program was written by Roy
E. Appleman, one of the members of the Staff responsible for helping
to develop this program. A PDF copy of his original "A
History of the National Park Service Mission 66 Program" is
available (though the quality is a bit hard to read).
To learn more details about the visitor centers that were constructed
during Mission 66, along with books on architecture in the parks,
you are encouraged to read these additional
books. To learn more about "Parkitecture", this NPS Online
Exhibit titled "Parkitecture in Western National Parks"
is an excellent introduction.
A History of the National Park Service Mission 66 Program
Roy E. Appleman
This is written to preserve a brief narrative record of the origin
and development of the MISSION 66 program. Mr. Wirth, the Director of
the National Park Service, conceived the idea for a MISSION 66 plan
early in 1955, and the plan itself was formulated in the ensuing year.
In January of 1956 the plan was presented orally to the President of the
United States and his Cabinet in a Cabinet meeting. The President
accepted the plan and authorized the Secretary of the Department of the
Interior to present it to Congress.
Meanwhile, the two Houses of Congress, through some of their members
and certain Committees, had become aware of the plan. Notices of it
appeared in the press from time to time. In the preparation of the
final plan the Bureau of the Budget was kept informed, and its advise
sought on the funding program. The first appropriation for MISSION 66
became available on July 1, 1956, under the 1957 appropriation.
The MISSION 66 Plan proved to be an unusually successful way of
getting Park problems before the country and of formulating a method of
receiving Administration and Congressional action to support and
implement a proposed solution. Because this plan promises to be the
basis for National Park Service work during the next ten years, and will
undoubtedly influence policy and development far into the future beyond
even that time,it has been considered desirable to leave in the records
of the Service an account of how it developed.
Origin of the Idea
Conrad Wirth at Glacier National Park
(NPS Photo, HPC-001136)
As with most movements that lead to important and successful action in
dealing with public problems, there is a background in the case of
MISSION 66. For forty years the United States had had a rapidly growing
population. It was a period when the automobile, over ever-expanding and
improving public roads, carried more and more people yearly to the
scenic end wilderness areas of North America. Prominent among these
places were the National Parks and Historic Sites. A problem never
solved was the need of obtaining funds adequate to finance park
development to serve the increasing visitation, and yet to protect for
the long future the charms, attractions, and special values of these
Every Director of the National Park Service from the first one,
Stephen T. Mather, on down to Mr. Conrad L. Wirth, had wrestled with
this problem. To all of themMather, Albright, Cammerer, Drury,
Demaray, and Wirth, it was the same thingtrying in the annual
budget and appropriation bills to get funds on a yearly basis which
would enable them to discharge their responsibilities. The yearly basis
was the old accustomed and accepted way of getting funds from the
Congress for the discharge of public business. In the years of the early
1950's after he assumed the Directorship, Mr. Wirth found in this method
frustration after frustration. Although Congress granted certain
increases, these seemed always to fall behind the pace of mounting
public use and needs in the parks, partly because of the falling
purchasing power of the funds appropriated due to ever-increasing
Mr. Wirth discussed this situation at different time over the years
with officials of the America Automobile Association, leaders of several
conservation and recreation groups, and the Department's Advisory Board
on Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments. At the same time there were
increased pressures to give up the parks because they were not being
developed and maintained properly, and he had to persuade the Governors
of several states that land in the National Park System was an asset to
the state and did not constitute a depletion of the State's resources.
Protecting the National Parks, and at the same time providing for their
proper development for the use of an expanding population, were related
problems ever present in Mr. Wirth's mind.
Pondering this matter one Saturday evening at his home in early
February 1955, Mr. Wirth's thoughts suddenly settled on the idea that
perhaps the main cause of past failures was the neglect to deal with the
problem on a long-range basis. Why not set up a master plan for the
System on the basis of a relatively long period of timea period of
time that looked beyond the year-to-year appropriation and yet did not
carry so far into the future that it mould lack reality. If the Congress
and the Administration were to grant the funds necessary properly to
protect and administer the National Park System, they should know what
the present and future use demands were, how much it would cost to
provide the necessary personnel and facilities, what would be a
reasonable and economical period to complete such a program, and what
they would get for the money so expended. Ten years seemed the right
length of time to plan between the extreme of the ever-present yearly
budget plan and of the distant future. These thoughts ran through Mr.
Wirth's mind on the night of February 6, 1955. 1/
1/ This account of what caused Mr. Wirth to launch the MISSION 66
study is based on interview, Roy B. Appleman with Mr. Wirth, March 23,
The next day, Sunday, Mr. Wirth spent at home. He found his mind
occupied with and continuing the reflections of the night before. He
realized that before any long-range plan could be formulated he mould
need to know a lot of things that he did not then know. What would be
the population of the United States in 1965? What proportion of the
population ten years hence would visit the parks? What would their wants
and needs be then? How would these differ, if at all, from those of
present day park visitors? What changes would occur in the next ten
years in the pattern of vacation and tourist travel that might affect
the parks? What new and additional accommodations would be needed for
overnight and dining accommodations in the next ten years? Would there be
an increase in the older and in the younger age brackets of visitors
over those of the present? What new roads would be needed? What new
trails? What new camping facilities would be required? With the prospect
of new multitudes of people in the parks, how best could one protect
their perishable and unique features for the generations of the future?
What increases in employee personnel would be needed to administer the
parks, provide ranger protection, and supply the interpretive services
visitors had come increasingly to expect and want? And what would all
Mr. Wirth, in contemplating these and other factors, decided that a
thoroughgoing, objective, and scientific study of the parka and their
prospective future use was basic to the long range plan that had been
shaping in his mind.
With these thoughts in mind, he went to his office on Monday,
February 3, 1955. As was his custom, be called a "Squad" Meeting, a
gathering of his principal advisors in the Washington Office of the
National Park Service, made up of the Assistant Directors, Special
Assistant to the Director, and the Chiefs or Acting Chiefs of Divisions.
Mr. Wirth expounded his idea to this group. He proposed to set up a
special staff selected from personnel in the Washington Office, and to
put this group in his conference room to work exclusively on a plan.
Relieved of all regular duties, they would devote full time to the
long-range planning study until it was completed. He did not know just
how long a period of time this would take. The group would be selected
in such a manner as to be representative of the major functions of the
Service. And he said ha wanted men on it who would be missed in their
The reaction of the members of the "Squad" was favorable. They
seconded the idea with enthusiasm. The discussion then turned to the
question of selecting the persons to comprise the study group. This led
to the decision to have two groupsone would be a Steering
Committee; the other would be the Working Staff. Before the meeting
ended, Mr. Wirth appointed the following membership to these two
Lemuel A. Garrison, Chairman
Chief, Conservation and
Thomas C. Vint
Design and Construction
Chief, Programs and
Plans Control Branch
John W. Doerr
Chief, Natural History Branch
Division of Interpretation
Donald E. Lee
Chief, Branch of
Jackson E. Price
Chief, Branch of Lands
William G. Carnes, Chairman
Division of Design and
Harold G. Smith
Assistant Chief, Programs
and Plans Control Branch
Robert M. Coates
Chief, Economics and
Howard R. Stagner
Natural History Branch
Division of Interpretation
Jack B. Dodd
Assistant Chief Forester
Conservation and Protection
Roy E. Appleman
Division of Interpretation
Raymond L. Freeman
Assistant Chief, Branch of
River Basin Studies
Division of Cooperative
(Added to the Staff on April 20, 1955.)
The members of the Steering Committee were to review periodically the
work of the Staff and help give it direction. The Staff was to give
full-time work to the planning task. Mr. Wirth had already thought of
the name "MISSI0N 66" for this effort.
With the "Squad" seating at an end, Mr. Wirth directed that the
members of the Staff be informed of their new assignments, and for them
together with the members of the Steering Committee, to meet with him
that afternoon at 2:30 in Room 3100, the conference room adjoining his
Excitement ran through the Park Service offices just before noon that
Monday as word passed around that a special study group had been formed
to inquire into possible changes in the Service's policies and to plan
for the future. Members of the Staff received news of their selection
for the work with a mingled feeling of surprise, uncertainty, and
anticipation. But all looked forward to the afternoon meeting when they
would learn more about the task ahead.
At 2:30 in the afternoon in Room 3100, where they ware joined by Mr.
Wirth and the Assistant Directors, Mr. Wirth proceeded at once to lay
before the Staff his idea of the task it was to perform. He said, in
effect, that there was a pressure of public steam criticizing conditions
in the parks. It was not enough to think of bringing the National Park
Service out of the muck to high ground. The habit of going to the PCP's
and pulling out from them a yearly program must be changed. Since 1946
there had been more money for the Service than before, but it purchased
less. Travel was increasing. Funds appropriated were actually on the
basis of serving 21,000,000 visits to the parks; now there were about
46,000,000 visits yearly and this number would increase. The Service
was confronted with the possible destruction in the parks, he said, of
what it was charged with saving. His desire was to lay before Congress a
program designed to secure a reasonable protection of the parks and yet
provide for increased public use in such a way as not to wear them out.
He thought there was danger of them being "loved to death."
Mr. Wirth said he wanted two things resolved in the course of the
study: 1. A reasoned objective for the Service over a long period of
time; (2) A program to accomplish that objective. He said the solution
would not be in the books and in regulations; perhaps it could not be
found within the terms of existing legislation. But whatever was
required, he wanted to know it. He wanted the Staff to come up with
answers. In an analogy to a poker game, he said the Service was being
"called". Now it had to show its hand. And he wanted it to be a good
He stressed finally that any development recommended must be for the
purpose of protecting the Nation's heritage scenic, scientific,
and historical in the national parks. He wanted the plan to be
completed in time so that he could present it to the General Service
Conference of Park Service Superintendents to be convened at Great Smoky
Mountains National Park on September 18. He wanted the first result of
the new program to show in the 1957 budget. he ended his comments by
saying that he wanted a memorandum prepared and reedy for distribution
to the Washington Office staff and to the field by Thursday next,
February 11, informing all members of the Service of the MISSION 66
study he had just launched and what he hoped to accomplish with it.*
The writer kept an informal diary of the proceedings of the Staff
during work on the MISSION 66 Report, from Feb. 9, 1955 to Feb. 8, 1955.
He made notes at the time discussions were in progress and often took
down literally verbatim the words spoken by various persons. He has
drawn heavily on these contemporary notes in preparing this account.
Almost nothing herein is based on unsupported memory.
After Mr. Wirth left the meeting, Mr. Garrison discussed the task
ahead of the group and said that it would have 90 days in which to
The Staff Begins Work
Dinosaur National Monument
(NPS Photo, HPC-000141)
The staff members settled down for work in Room 3100, the Director's
conference room between his own and Mr. Tolson's offices. There they
talked about how they should start on their new job. This room was to
be their work shop for the next year, although none of the group
realized it at the time. The first series of discussions seemed to
point at finishing the task within three or four months.
There was a great convenience and advantage to the staff in working
in this room. Mr. Wirth had only to open the side door of his office
and he could step in and discuss any topic with the staff. As time
passed, all members came to know that the Director's time was very
valuable, and that it was hard for him to give as much as half an hour
to any discussion without being called away on some important and urgent
matter. The arrangement worked well, however, for Mr. Wirth did find
time to consult frequently with the staff.
A few of the division heads at first continued to assign work to some
of the staff members detailed from their divisions. It was hard for
everyone to believe at first that this Staff was to work on the new task
assigned by the Director, and on nothing else. But the Director soon
made it clear that no one, for any purpose whatsoever, was to request or
expect Division work from any member of the Staff. Each and every member
of the Staff had been relieved of his regular duties until the newly
assigned MISSION 66 task was finished. There was no more trouble on
The first official act of the Staff was to draft a memorandum
announcing to all offices and members of the Service the establishment
of the MISSION 66 Staff and its purpose. The Steering Committee
reviewed the draft before it went to Mr. Wirth for approval. In this
memorandum to the Washington and All Field Offices, dated February 18,
1955, Mr. Wirth officially announced his MISSION 66 project to the
Service. It said in part:
"The year 1966 will mark the Golden Anniversary of the National Park
Service. In an effort to solve, by that time, the difficult problem of
protecting the scenic and historic areas of the National Park System
from overuse and, at the same time, of providing optimum opportunity for
public enjoyment of the parks, I have initiated a project which we are
calling MISSION 66 ...
"The purpose of MISSION 66 is to make an intensive study of the
problems of protection; public use, interpretation, development,
staffing, legislation, financing, and all other phases of park
operation, and to produce a comprehensive and integrated program of use
and protection that is in harmony with the obligations of the National
Park Service under the Act of 1916.
"The immediate objective of the MISSION 66 is the development
of a dynamic program to be presented to the Secretary for consideration
by the Bureau of the Budget and the Congress beginning with the 1957
fiscal year estimates. The ultimate objective is the complete
execution of the program by the time the Service celebrates its Golden
Anniversary in 1916.
This memorandum named the members of both the Steering Committee and
Staff, and officially relieved the latter from their regular duties. It
also set forth the name MISSION 66 as the term that would henceforth be
used in referring to this special undertaking. It made clear that all
members of the Service would be expected to participate in studies that
were to be undertaken in formulating the desired program.
The Staff undertook at the start to review all the basic existing
laws that affected the functions and scope of the Service. It also
assembled and studied other related documents and statements from
prominent individuals who had been associated with the past history of
the Service. Among the most important of these documents was the
"Statement of National Park Policy" signed by Secretary of the Interior
Franklin K. Lane, and dated May 13, 1918. Secretary Lane had sent this
document to the first and newly appointed Director of the National Park
Service, Stephen T. Mather, as a policy directive to him for the new
Bureau. Mr. Horace M. Albright, then a young assistant in the
Secretary's Office who had been handling park matters prior to the
establishment of the new Bureau, was the principal author of the
The vision and soundness of this first policy statement for the new
bureau is confirmed by the fact that nearly all of it is still
applicable, in a broad way, to Service policy today. A few excerpts from
Secretary Lane's directive to Mr. Mather may be appropriate here. The
Staff accepted it as stating certain valid basic assumptions on which
their work should proceed. It said in part:
"For the information of the public an outline of the administrative
policy to which the new Service will adhere my now be announced. This
policy is based on three broad principles: First, that the national
parka must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form for the use of
future generations as well as those of our own time; second, that they
are set apart for the use, observation, health, and pleasure of the
people; and third, that the national interest must dictate all decisions
affecting public or private enterprise in the parks.
". . The commercial use of these reservations, except as specially
authorized by law, or such as may be incidental to the accommodation and
entertainment of visitors, will not be permitted under any circumstances
"Every opportunity should be afforded the public, wherever possible,
to enjoy the national parks in the manner that best satisfies the
The Staff studied legislative background of the Service. This
included particularly the organic act of August 25, 1916 (39 Stat. 535)
establishing the National Park Service; the Antiquities Act of June 8,
1906 (34 Stat. 225); the National Historic Sites Act of August 21, 1935
(49 Stat. 666); and the Park, Parkway and Recreation-Area Study Act of
June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1894).
Changes in responsibilities and mission brought to the Service "by
Executive Orders No. 6l66 of June 10, 1933 and No. 6228 of July 28, 1933
were studied. In these two Executive Orders, President Franklin D.
Roosevelt consolidated in the National Park Service all national
military and battlefield parks and the national monuments that had been,
up to that time, variously held and administered in three Departments at
the Federal Government War, Agriculture, and Interior. The most
important new function imposed on the Service in these Executive Orders
was responsibility for a large number of historical areas the
battlefield parks and some memorials previously administered by
the War Department. In some cases the War Department had administered
this responsibility for nearly forty years. Twenty-some years later,
in 1955, it became clear that in the forty years since its establishment
the National Park Service had greatly expanded, not only in the number
of Federal properties, but also in the type, for which it was
Interestingly enough the principles of policy adopted to guide the
development and use of the first great natural parks were equally
applicable to the historical, scientific, and Memorial properties. For
all, there was a singleness of belief and intent; the application of
principles and direction of purpose for each would emerge from
evaluating the particular resources of each park and adopting the proper
means of safeguarding these resources while at the same time making
available their values to the American people.
For additional guidance in evolving any new policies that might be
needed for the changing times expected in the next decade, the minutes
and resolutions of the Advisory Board on Historic Sites, Buildings, and
Monuments were examined. Those principles of conservation and protection
which this body of eminent men had formulated in advising the Secretary
on park matters over the past twenty years were listed. The problems of
the past two decades offered many hints of what those of the next decade
The Staff adopted for its own, as an axiom of intent and purpose, a
statement from the opinion of Justice Mathew W. Hill in the case of
State vs. Dexter, delivered in the Supreme Court of the State of
Washington, February 18, 1949 (202 Pacific Reporter, 2d series) as it
concerns the Nation's natural resources.
Edmund Burke once said that a great unwritten compact exists between
the dead, the living and the unborn. We leave to the unborn a colossal
financial debt, perhaps inescapable, but incurred none the less, in our
time and for our immediate benefit. Such an unwritten compact requires
that we leave to the unborn something more than debts and depleted
natural resources. Surely, where natural resources can be utilized and
at the same time perpetuated for future generations, what has been
called 'constitutional morality' requires that we do so.
The practices of European countries in preserving and making use of
their great natural wonders came under scrutiny for whatever good
suggestions experience there might offer. Policy and practices are by no
means the same in various parts of that continent. The English in their
own country and the Swiss in the Alps almost opposite practices, and it
is not always easy to say which is right. Even some eminent Englishmen
have doubts on this matter, as can be sensed from a remark of Professor
G. M. Trevelyan to the effect that it is fortunate the Alps are not
controlled by the British since, if they were, "they would long ago have
been closed on account of the chamois."
Trevelyan was an apostle of close and intimate relationships between
man and the countryside. Only by walking over the ground, among the
meadows and in the forests, over mountains and across valleys, he
thought, could this relationship best be obtained. He once said, "I have
two doctors, my left leg and my right ..." Be advised calling in these
doctors for every disease of the mind and torment of the soul. To him it
was for human beings a truth that walk long enough and far enough and
there is no trouble which at the end of the day will not look different
and feel lighter.
For the first two or three weeks the Staff busied itself with
discussing all these and other related matters. It was trying to find a
point of departure, a standard against which to measure the many
questions it now must consider. It tried to find a series of maxims or
rules of conduct to guide its thinking and control its action in the
days ahead. The members took it for granted after Mr. Wirth's several
discussions with them that they must be as objective as possible . Each
was to be free to question anything if he thought a better way could be
found. Nothing was to be sacred except the ultimate purpose to be
served. Men, methods, and time-honored practices were to be accorded no
vested deference. Everyone realized after a review of Park Service
history that such development in the larger national parks, certainly,
had been based on how far a stagecoach could travel in a day. The time
for a change in the application of different criterion was overdue.
By March 1, two steps had been decided upon in the Staff and Steering
Committee to develop the detailed information the Staff would need in
starting to evolve a program for MISSION 66. Requests were sent to each
Division and Branch of the Washington Office for a recommended program,
within their fields of responsibility, to accomplish the stated purposes
of MISSION 66. At the same time, the Staff began work on a questionnaire
to be sent to all the parks. Answers to this questionnaire would cover
both statistical information and theoretical discussion of park
problems. The term "park" was used to apply to any area administered by
Concurrently with these opening steps in starting its work, the Staff
decided to carry on interviews with persons from all the Branches and
Divisions of the Washington Office. Interviews were to be arranged also
with park officials from outside the Washington Office when they were in
the city on other business and could spare the time to appear before the
Staff. It was agreed that these interviews would be wide open to all
members of the Staff to ask any questions pertinent to the task ahead.
No interviews were to be spared embarrassing questions if they promised
to bring out useful information. It was recognized that the most
fruitful result of the interviews would be to get the impressions, the
criticisms, the pet ideas, the recommendations of a multitude of persons
on park problems. Many of the persons who would take the "witness stand"
had behind them a long period of varied Park Service experience. In the
composite, they represented just about all aspects of Service work and
responsibility. The Staff meant to pick their brains.
The Mount Rainier Pilot Study
Concurrently with formulating this plan to interview a great number
of people on MISSION 66 problems, the Staff and the Steering Committee
on March 1 began considering the best way to approach the study of each
park in the System. The purpose here was to arrive at the best
evaluations of park resources, the way in which they could best be used
for human enjoyment, and yet preserve them for continued used
indefinitely into the future. After considerable discussion, the
decision finally was reached to make a pilot study of a park having a
variety of typical problems. The experience gained in such a study
might be applicable to formulating an approach to similar studies for
each park in the System. Taken together, the individual park studies
would add up to MISSION 66. It was agreed that the first pilot study
should concern a park of reasonably difficult problems, many of which
would be typical of park problems in general.
Mount Rainier National Park was finally selected for this study. It
had both summer and winter use problems. It had mountain and forest. It
had a rich flora and fauna, and great scientific interest. It had
superb scenery. It had concession problems, road and trail problems,
camping and day use problems; it also had public relations problems.
By March 24, 1955, the Staff, with considerable assistance from the
Steering Committee, had drawn up general guidelines and precepts for the
Mount Rainier study. An outline of the proposed study was discussed with
the Director. He seemed in general agreement with the Staff's
proposals, except for the completion of the Mount Rainier West Side
Highway. The completion of that highway, he thought, should be
dependent upon adjustment of the Park boundary to obtain more favorable
terrain for the road.
One particular precept that evoked long and, at times, rather sharp,
divided opinion in the Staff concerned exclusive franchise for
transportation. The viewpoint gradually prevailed, however, that there
should not be an exclusive franchise for transportation in any park.
This precept was particularly applicable to the Mount Rainier Study
because courts had decided in the past that the Interior Department,
under its regulations then in effect, could keep "Drive-It-Yourself"
cars out of the park Mt. Rainier was the park involved in the
case. There was finally a very strong feeling on the part of a majority
of the Staff that such a practice of limiting transportation facilities
within a park was not in the public interest. Where it was in effect it
could seriously impair the convenience of individuals and increase their
financial burden in visiting a park. The majority of the Staff felt that
any means of transportation a visitor might want to use for his own
convenience should be allowed in the parks, if it met park regulations
concerning safety and protection. This viewpoint was successfully
presented to the Steering Committee and the Chief of Concessions, and
was accepted by Mr. Wirth. Henceforth concession contracts were not to
contain provisions for exclusive transportation franchise within the
parks. The members of the Staff who had argued long and sometimes
heatedly for this principle felt that in its adoption a major
achievement in MISSION 66 objectives had already been accomplished.
Discussion of the Mount Rainier study early brought out the difficult
problem concerning overnight accommodations within that Park. The Staff
felt rather strongly that the weather and climatic factors, and the past
history of overnight concession operations at Mount Rainier, argued for
a discontinuance of such faculties. In this connection, Mr. Wirth
reviewed for the benefit of the Staff his recent decision not to have
overnight accommodations in the Everglades National Park for the present
at least, and to allow it at some time in the future only if by then it
was demonstrated that interpretation of the Park required it for
visitors who started from a point outside the Park and traveled by water
One very basic concept emerged quite early in the Staff
deliberations, and continued to grow in importance and influence in
Staff thinking about the National Park System. This is the very simple
and obvious concept that the first step in planning is to define the
human benefits which should accrue to a park visitor, and that
everything that is done in a park in the interests of a visitor must be
directed toward and find its justification in that definition. The full
recognition of this concept in all its implications can be the most
important and far-reaching influence of all conservation public
use ideas toward an improved quality of park use, and the preservation
of park resources as well.
The Staff study of Mount Rainier had reached the point at the end of
March where it was desirable to go over it in detail with Superintendent
Preston Macy. Accordingly, he came to Washington, and during the week of
April 4-8 the Staff discussed the study with him. The Steering
Committee participated with the Staff and the Superintendent in the
review. On the 7th, Mr. Wirth joined the group and with it went over
the Mt. Rainier study. The next day, corrections and final changes were
made in the study. Mr. Wirth asked that enough copies of it be
available for use at the forthcoming Advisory Board meeting and at the
meeting of the Regional Directors. The study, called a prospectus, was
finished and copies assembled on April 11.
The broad principles evolved in the Mt. Rainier study can be
summarized by stating that the MISSION 66 study of any park, and the
development of a good use plan for it, required establishing the
following things in the priority listed:
- Determine and state the important park resources.
- Fix a road and trail circulation system to carry visitors to these
resources so that they may see, experience, and enjoy the values to be
derived from them.
- Determine what visitor facilities, other than roads and trails, are
necessary within the Park to provide visitors a reasonable opportunity
to enjoy the Park resources.
- Determine the administrative requirements of the Park in terms of
protecting its resources and providing visitor services.
- Determine what land acquisition, if any, is needed for protection of
Park resources and to assure reasonably convenient visitor use of those
Interviews of Washington Office personnel was carried on rather
intensively during March and April. When park personnel, and members of
the Regional and Design Offices were in Washington they too were invited
to present their conclusions on park use problems.
One of the Staff's first interviews was on March 4, with a
representative of the Mobile Home Manufacturing Company of Chicago,
Illinois. The purpose was to inquire into the feasibility of using
trailers for cheap overnight accommodation in the parks. As a result of
this interview the staff learned that an 8-foot wide, 35-foot long,
trailer with two bedrooms could probably be manufactured for $3,500.
Terms of sale were generally 1/3 to 1/4 down payment, with 5 years to
pay the remainder. The Trailer Manufacturer Association was trying to
obtain financing terms which would permit a 1/5 down payment, and 6 year
to pay the remainder. Oil heat is used in most of the trailers. The
Public Housing Authority has used trailers in flood areas, and the
Atomic Energy Commission has used about 4,000 units successfully at one
of its projects on the Savannah River. The staff discussed this subject
periodically thereafter but never reached the conclusion that trailers
would be a good solution for cheap overnight accommodation within the
A partial listing of ideas and suggestions that came to the attention
of the Staff in the March and April interviews may be worth recording
1. Each park should have erected at its entrance, or just inside the
entrances, a large panel marker giving the name of the park and stating
the most significant resources of the park. Its purpose would be to
alert all visitors to the main features of the park and set the mental
tone of what the visitor should expect to find in the park. In a sense,
this entrance marker would carry a statement of significance; it would
give the meaning of the park, the reason for its being established.
2. Thousands of miles of trails were in existence that were little
used, and in some cases used almost not at all.
3. Women want good trails, trails that they can walk on in high
heels. Many are not prepared to change into walking shoes for short
walks to points of interest. Trails to points of interest should be
hard surfaced for all-weather and smooth enough for all kinds of
4. The Service should get away from one-man parks. The smallest park
needed at least three full time employees. Personal services were
better than that of gadgets in most instances. Gadgets cannot answer
questions. People will look at scenery in daytime; at night they want
something else to do. A failure to reorganize park staffs to meet
changing conditions. In many places the functional organization had not
changed in decades; ranger districts for example remained the same over
the decades although there were different problems of protection and
vastly changed means of travel and communication now than in times
5. The use of radio, and neglect of telephone communication, has
resulted in generally bad communication for fighting forest fires. Park
staffs are not able to maintain radio equipment. Radio equipment in the
parks has performed less satisfactorily than expected.
6. The majority of people will not camp or stay overnight at places
in the parks where there is no special attraction. The majority of
people will go to slum campgrounds rather than to new, wholesome ones in
good wilderness environment, if man-made attractions and entertainment
are at or near the former. Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks were
cited as examples of this experience.
7. The broad policy of forest conservation has in the past led to a
misconception of proper management of eastern historical areas,
particularly where conservation of the natural scene was not the real
conservation problem. The foresters were not generally the source of
this misconceived policy interpretation; it came from other personnel in
the Service. Fortunately, there has been a decided improvement in
understanding the real conservation factors based upon the important
resources of each park and the type of development needed for each one
by the public.
8. Concentration of technically trained personnel in the parks often
is inefficient. Stationed in a regional or central office they could be
used in a more diversified manner and wherever and whenever their
talents and skills are required. This matter was discussed at many
different times by the Staff. There seemed to be general agreement
that, with few exceptions, the technically trained personnel in the
higher grades should be stationed in central offices and assigned to
park work as needed. Smaller parks, particularly, would benefit from
such an arrangement. But it also was understood that certain budgeting
and personnel factors made this very difficult to carry out except in a
rather limited degree.
9. Mechanical and audio-visual devices cannot answer visitor
10. The National Park System is weak and out of balance with respect
to historic sites commemorating western expansion, industry, invention,
and great social changes.
11. Concessions are not needed in small areas in urban centers;
examples would be those at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine and
Fort McHenry at Baltimore. These compete with business establishments in
the immediate surrounding community, and the services they provide are
not required for visitor comfort.
12. Night use of parks will diminish.
13. Individuality of each park must be key to policy and development
relating to that park.
14. There should be more lifesize exhibits in historical parks.
Museum is only an aid to the "thing" itself. This idea favors more
reconstructions. People are showing an ever-increasing preference for
lifesize reconstructions in the places they visit.
15. A planned approach to a park; put facilities in the approach.
This would protect central areas.
16. Trailers for overnight park accommodations too cramped, too
expensive to maintain. Some of the new motels, example those at Great
Meadows in Shenandoah National Park, cost about $3,800 a unit. Employee
residences should have a minimum of 3 bedroom. Will need 1,000 houses
in next 10 years; 1/2 new, 1/2 replacements. Will need about 400
seasonal quarters. With rotation policy in effect, the Service cannot
expect employees to live outside park in houses they must purchase or
rent themselves. House should be replaced after 50 years.
Superintendents say they cannot rent houses to employees at $30 a pay
period. The trend now is for units with 2 double beds. Perhaps
construction of houses for employees; in this kind of construction unit
will cost about $18,000. Must have standardized employee residence
17. The Service cannot control hotels in parks because they are
concession owned and operated. It can control campgrounds. Best to have
hotels outside park wherever possible.
18. Warehouse operations in parks costly and inefficient. Small
warehouse cannot stockpile. Most parks should contract for supplies or
move this part of park operations to nearby town where supplies can be
purchased readily. Money is tied up in personnel, equipment, and
structures in warehouse operations that is not justified in most places.
These views were echoed by many people who discussed this phase of park
operations, but seldom by a Superintendent. Even though more costly,
most of them like the greater convenience of warehouse and ordinary
supply facilities immediately at hand in the park.
19. Past experience shows that personnel trained in radio
communication and maintenance in the parks leave for better paying jobs
outside as soon as they attain competence. The National Park Service
should get out of the electrical business. It is cheaper and more
efficient to contract for such services. Utility companies should
provide services. Equipment should be leased and maintained under
contract. Telephone is still the best means of communications for park
20. How can the Service justify expending Federal tax money in
providing local recreational use? Certain ski facilities come within
21. Strong belief within Staff, and among many interviewees, that
private enterprise and the resulting competitive interplay of economic
forces would result in giving better quality accommodations and visitor
services than those obtained presently through concessioner operation
under Government rules and regulations. This opinion strongly permeated
a great amount of discussion on the subject of visitor services within
22. The Service needs a research unit to chart changing public habits
in terms of visitor accommodations and services.
23. Programs for young people should be emphasized.
24. People are staying a shorter time in the parks now than formerly.
Older people form a larger part of the visitors than formerly. Local
riff-raff cause trouble and engage in vandalism; it is seldom the
bona-fide park visitor. Not favor special programs for age groups; a
general one suitable for all the best; it is the only kind the Service
can afford. (Most of the Staff agreed with this.) Eliminate special day
events. They are good for local town business but seldom for the park
and the bona-fide visitor. One has to fight the carnival entrepreneur
wherever great crowds gather.
25. A visitor service program should provide simple information. Give
opportunity for outdoor experience in which each person directs himself.
Hold interpretive effort to what is suitable for general application
for all kinds of minds. Do not provide for artificial types of
recreation that is, recreation that requires man-made facilities
to engage in it.
26. The experimental information station at the west entrance to
Yellowstone National Park proved a failure. Experience there seemed to
show that people went to get to the place they have come to see, and
prefer to get their information after they have arrived there.
27. The Staff was of the opinion that the concession problem is a
complex one, and weaknesses in the present system probably cannot easily
be corrected. The concessions appeared to be somewhat in the nature of a
vested interest. Political influences can easily be brought to bear
against any proposed changes in it that might adversely affect those
interests. It would be bard to implement recommendations calculated to
change the system, even though it appeared that to do so would result in
better and cheaper services for the public. The need for expanded and
better overnight accommodations, and better sanitary facilities in these
accommodations, of a quality and kind that would compare with modern
facilities outside the parks along the highways, at reasonable rates,
was the burden of the vast proportion of public complaints against
present services in the parks. Accordingly, it appeared to the Staff
that this matter was of over-riding importance.
There was a large body of opinion that the day of the big hotel in
the parks is over. The cost too much. Most people want cheap
accommodations, hot water, toilets. They spend about 1/3 of travel
expenses for lodging accommodations. The key to public service is to
open everything to competitive bidding. The public would then decide
quality, and rate of charge for services. Preferential treatment in
concession contracts should be limited to right of first refusal. Park
concession contracts are now very broad. Operator and concessioner can
run in anything as a cost item. There should be more and better cost
accounting. Transportation franchises believed to be very profitable.
Concessioner books will not disclose this, however, and also one cannot
tell from the books where profits and losses are occurring in lodging,
dining facilities, and transportation. Accordingly, it is not possible
to determine proper charges for each. Hard to tell what is subsidizing
what. Changes in these procedures and practices are necessary if public
interest is to be served otherwise not possible to set suitable
charges for each type of service and to eliminate poor management.
There is now no definition of admissible costs in a concession
operation. An example was found in one instance in which a concessioner
in one year gave away $80,000 in free accommodations. Obviously, this
charge was passed on to the paying guests. Much of the concession
business has been run on the basis of the concessioner's personal right
without regard to the assumption that his operation is for the public
interest. As such it should be controlled and abuses eliminated. The
larger parks which major concession operations need a resident cost
accountant on the park staff to check on concession activity; otherwise
there is no way of knowing what abuses are being tolerated to the
detriment of the public interest, creating bad public opinion that
inevitably reacts against the Park Service and seldom against the
concessioner. The public generally blames the National Park Service for
any evil, abuse, or incompetence in the services it receives in the
parks. It is held responsible. The public interest would be best
served by the Department allowing only direct contracts. Indirect
contracts, sub-constructors, often make very big profits, with resulting
high costs to the public.
28. One person interviewed was typical of the average interested and
intelligent park visitor; she was a young stenographer who liked to
travel during vacations. Her answers to questions in discussion with
the Staff disclosed that she would like to do the following things, and
have these facilities, in the national parks; go to the large parks;
have private bath facilities in room or cabin; have clean linen; take a
conducted tour; drive to parks in car; would not object to a reasonable
fee for services within a park; would pay a guide fee; would want to see
everything worth seeing; would visit museums to get history of park;
would attend lectures at night on park subject, but one or two would be
enough; would not expect man-made recreational facilities in the parks;
would not expect to pay more than $3 a night in a 2-bed cabin or
motel-type quarters; would being walking shoes and hike; would want
signs and markers telling where things of interest are located and what
they are; would buy souvenirs; would buy lots of picture post card;
would want to sit at a table for meals; would not look for fancy
accommodations, and would not want to dress for dinner; would want good,
tasty, hot, inexpensive food; would prefer to stay overnight inside park
thought that would have a real although intangible value
would even pay more to stay inside the park; would be disappointed if
there was not the opportunity to stay inside the park; would want to get
to high places and look at the scenery, would not expect to find
cocktail bars; would not expect or like to find a resort-type
development in the parks; prefer motel-type accommodations because of
convenience and luggage; would stop at park orientation center; would
not want too much information thrust upon here just a little,
with the chance to ask for more if she wanted it; would not object to
staying overnight in park some distance from one of its principal
features; above all, would want cleanliness and simple comforts in
overnight accommodations and public rest room facilities.
Memorandum No. 2
Five weeks after Mr. Wirth had established the MISSION 66 Staff, it
and the Steering Committee had made sufficient progress to formulate a
statement outlining the way in which the MISSION 66 Study was to
proceed. This statement was issued by the Director as Memorandum No. 2,
dated March 17, 1955, and sent to all office and parks of the National
Park System. There were three parts to it; 1) the memorandum itself
giving a summary of the work done by the Staff up to that point,
reiteration of the directives under which it was working and expressly
extending these directives to all members of the System who were asked
to give their best abilities in helping to advance the study; 2)
Attachment No. 1, a summary of some of the more troublesome problems
existing in the larger parks, and a firm reminder that solutions to
these must be found consonant with preserving the resources and special
features of each park; 3) a questionnaire to be answered by each Park
Superintendent outlining a course of action for a MISSION 66 program
suitable, in his opinion, for the park under his administrative control.
These replies were to be mailed to reach the MISSION 66 Staff by April
Memorandum No. 2, in effect, was the first of several steps taken
to secure from the park staffs and other field offices a great wealth
of data about current park operations, and of ideas how the future park
developments could meet the announced goal of MISSION 66. The Director
specifically invited any employee to send his ideas to the MISSON 66
Staff without reference to official channels. He was most anxious not
to have any idea suppressed, or the individual advancing it inhibited,
by the chance that it might not meet favor with some superior who
disagreed with it. And he wanted everyone to feel free to express
himself even though that might mean criticizing past policies and
officials who had promulgated and favored them. A significant passage
in the memorandum said on this point, "Each employee who feels he has
something to contribute to the MISSION is urged to submit his personal
views (regardless of area or subject) directly to the Committee without
regard to normal channels of official communication." He further
reminded everyone that, "Within the limitations of the fundamental
objectives of the National Park Service to protect and preserve, the
lid is off."
Some of the precepts that later were adopted as part of the
official MISSION 66 Report had already taken shape in the thinking
of the Steering Committee and Staff. One of the ideas earliest
adopted as a precept was expressed so well in one of the Superintendent's
replies to the questionnaire that the Staff adopted his wording.
It said, "substantial visitor enjoyment of the parks is the best means
of protecting them against exploitation encroachment." Related
concepts to avoid overuse of great natural or historical features,
or the immediate environs of these important public properties." And then
to the next step that "proper development is an essential protective
device in channeling use." A preliminary list of Precepts for Staff
guidance was adopted and made a document of the MISSION 66 Study on
The Shenandoah Regional Directors Conference
During the week of April 11, a Regional Director's Conference was held
at Shenandoah National Park. As usual at such conferences, the Director
and his principal assistants and Division Chiefs attended. The principal
topic of discussion was the MISSION 66 Study. In all meetings of Service
officials, henceforth, as everyone was to learn, this subject was the
over-riding concern and passion of the Director. He gave to it his time and
best thought, and he demanded of others that they do the same.
In the Shenandoah discussions, the Director decided on certain steps
to be taken as part of the Study. Perhaps the most important of them for
the Staff, in terms of work for the next few months, was his decision to
follow the Mt. Rainier Pilot Study with others. Six additional pilot
studies were to be undertaken by the Staff. The parks selected were
chosen because they represented different types of areas, and taken
together would constitute a good cross section of Service administration,
preservation, protection, development, and visitor use problems. The
parks chosen for the additional pilot studies were as follows:
Yellowstone National Park
Chaco Canyon National Monument
Shiloh National Military Park
Adams Mansion National Historic Site
Fort Laramie National Monument
Everglades National Park
In this group there was the largest and oldest national park,
and having perhaps the most complex and difficult problems of all;
an archeological park; a battlefield park; a great historic house
with priceless heirlooms and furniture; an old army and frontier
post; and the new, and in some respects unique, national park at
the tip of Florida.
The discussions at Shenandoah caused the Director to add one
more member to the Staff, bringing the membership in that body up
to seven. It was suggested in the course of the Regional Director's
conference that there should be a representative on the Staff
acquainted with problems of State cooperation and of cooperative
activities with other Federal agencies in the field of recreation.
Mr. Raymond L. Freeman of the then Division of Cooperative Activities
was selected as the new member of the Staff. He reported to the Staff
for duty with it on April 20.
Within a week or two after the MISSION 66 Staff had began work in
February it had initiated a weekly report to Mr. Wirth summarizing its
activities and progress in the study during the last report period. Mr.
Harold Smith, whom Mr. Carnes had named Co-chairman of the Staff, normally
prepared this report. By means of this periodic report Mr. Wirth kept
abreast of what was being done and the status of the work at any given
time. As often as his duties would permit, Mr. Wirth stepped through
the side door of his office to join the Staff informally for a few
minutes. He would comment on some aspects of the work or pass on to
the Staff members some bit of information he had just received. He cut
through the confusion that often seemed to overwhelm the Staff and helped
to keep its work on course by advice and criticism. Above all, his
optimism on the outcome of the Staff's work was of immeasurable value.
The Yellowstone Park Discussion
Much talk had already taken place by April of what should be done at
Yellowstone National Park in the MISSION 66 program. The immediate cause
of this discussion was the fact that the 20-year contract of the Yellowstone
Park concessioner expired in 1955 and a new contract would have to be
negotiated before the end of the year. What should be the nature of
this contract? How was the public interest best to be served in arranging
for overnight accommodations, dining services, transportation, and a host
of other matters relating to visitor services in which the concessioner
up to that time had had a controlling part, operating under rules and
regulations established by the Department? Because of the need to make
haste with the Yellowstone study and because of the complexity of its
problems, the Director arranged for Superintendent Edmund Rogers, Resident
Landscape Architect Frank Mattson, Chief Ranger Otto Brown, and Chief
Naturalist Dave Condon to come to Washington. They arrived and sat down
with the Staff on Monday, April 11, and spent a week in a detailed
examination of the Yellowstone problems in terms of a 10-year
planning program under MISSION 66.
During most of the Yellowstone discussions Mr. Garrison sat with the
Staff, and Regional Director Howard Baker joined it and the Yellowstone
group part of the time. Among the questions discussed were the following:
Are the basic resources of the park adequately protected?
Should overnight accommodations in the park, other than camping,
continue to be provided?
Should there be one central area developed for overnight
accommodations, or several, if they were to be retained in the park?
Was it reasonable to suppose that the park could provide fishing
for the 2-3 million people expected to use the park yearly in the
next ten years?
Should trailer courts be allowed in the park?
Should new developed areas be opened in the park, and, if so,
how many and where?
In the interest of the public what kind of concession contracts
should be negotiated with concessioners?
There were many diverse opinions on most of these and other questions.
There was general agreement that because of its size, overnight
accommodations would be needed within the park. There was discussion of a
proposal to bring all overnight accommodations in the park to one town area
that would be established for that purpose. But this idea did not win majority
support, and finally the consensus was that there should be at least
three or four built-up sites for visitor overnight accommodations.
The size of the park, its varied interests, and the travel pattern led
to this conclusion. The view was held that the Canyon, Lake, and
Thermal areas would need overnight accommodations. There was divided
opinion on the Mammoth Hot Spring area. Strong arguments were presented
for removing all developments from it except for the hotel which would be
retained temporarily. It was pointed out that the Mammoth development is
built on top of a presently quiescent thermal area that might at any time
become active. Many felt there is too much development now at the Mammoth
area consistent with protection of the terraces.
Discussion of whether the unique and basic resources of the
park were being protected led to unanimous agreement that there
was far too much developed facilities at Old Faithful geyser area.
It was decided to recommend that all accommodation facilities there
be removed and a new site for overnight accommodations and dining
services, with accompanying interpretive facilities, be established
in the vicinity of Mallard Lake, about 1-1/2 to 2 miles northeast of
Old Faithful. All major roads in the Old Faithful Geyser Basin would
be abandoned, and access to it would be principally by foot trail from
new roads at the rim of the basin. Most of the conferees agreed that
the present hotel, cabin group, stores, and related development are
intrusions which will become much worse if expanded to meet expected
increased visitation of the future. The preservation and protection of
the Old Faithful geyser area seemed to dictate that all such facilities
be removed from the Thermal basin and its immediate environs.
There were those who argued that the same principle should be
applied to the Fishing Bridge area of Yellowstone Lake. That point
where the Yellowstone River leaves the Lake and begins its course
from the high plateau to the Missouri River, and eventually the sea,
was considered by several as a place of sufficient importance to
cause its classification as an area resource that should be protected,
kept free from intrusions, and restored to its original, natural
condition. This would mean removal of facilities at the Fishing
Bridge, and possibly the removal of the bridge itself. In the end,
however, the weight of opinion did not support this view.
There was not much enthusiasm for trailer courts in the park,
but there seemed no good basis for denying trailer travelers the
opportunity to remain in the park a reasonable length of time, and
the use while there of their trailer facilities. It was agreed that
only one trailer court should be provided.
At Canyon, only the hotel was to be retained. Everything else
would be moved to the new site for a developed area on the south
One new developed area was proposed for the park. After talk on
this subject, a place on the west side of Yellowstone Lake, south of
West Thumb, and called Bridge Bay, was selected. Study of additional
needed facilities resulted in a recommendation that the development
there provide for 1,200 overnight guests. Expansion of overnight
facilities at the other developed areas would increase capacity for
another two or three thousand guests.
On the question of protecting fish in Yellowstone Park, there was
a strong recommendation that all hatchery activity for collecting eggs
from streams flowing into Yellowstone Lake for shipment outside the
park be halted. As part of this general problem of fishery resources,
there was strong doubt expressed by some of the conferees most familiar
with the park that it could provide fishing waters for two to three
million visitors annually. Some curb and control on this activity was
believed necessary in the not distant future. Closing the Yellowstone
River between the Lake and Canyon to fishing was suggested.
It was agreed that there should always be camping in the park.
Because people want to stay in the park, the availability of camp
grounds outside the park in adjacent national forests will not
appreciably relieve the demand for camping in the park, it was
thought, and relief should not be expected from that quarter. It
was the viewpoint of all conferees that camping facilities in the
park will have to be expanded.
At present there is a great amount of noon-day picnicking in the
park, and this activity apparently is on the increase. People stop
at any good spot alongside the road and eat in their cars, or on the
ground if the place is inviting. This activity stems from the need in
most families to cut down expenses and the inconvenience of driving
long distances to a dining facility.
There was discussion of the advantages of having the park headquarters
at a lower elevation to escape extreme temperatures and the heavy snow.
It was thought there would also be certain economies if it were in a
town such as Gardiner. In the opinion of many of the group, there would
be an advantage for the park headquarters to move from Mammoth to
Gardiner, outside the park. The discussion took cognizances of the fact
that a special study some years ago pointed in the direction. No conclusion
was reached in the Staff, however, on this question. There was strong
feeling on the part of some that a park headquarters should be in the
park unless over-riding factors made it advisable.
The group favored a proposed tour of major points of interest
within the park. This could be arranged either by the present
concessioners for transportation, or by a new concessioner for
that purpose. It might be possible to have such tours going in
both directions around the loop, clockwise and counter-clockwise,
so that people who wanted to go only to one or a few of the points
of interest on the loop would find available a schedule by which
they could return to their starting place the same day. The present
transportation within the park is designed to bring to the hotels
as many overnight guests as possible. It is not designed primarily
to provide convenient and economical transportation to points of
interest for the benefit of visitors. Visitor Services for those
who do not have their own transportation needs special consideration
The many questions relating to concessions in the Park
inevitably received a lot of discussion. It was pointed out
that Hamilton Stores, a concession, is selling more groceries
and fewer meals than formerly, apparently pointing to a trend
in eating habits of modern-day visitors to the park. It was
also noted that the principal concessioner does not appear
over-anxious to cooperate in the park interpretive program.
As an example of this, Canyon Lodge and Canyon Hotel do not
want to provide space on their premises for an evening interpretive
program by park personnel. Much testimony was brought out that
the hotels do not make money for the concessioner, but are in fact
subsidized by the cheaper accommodations, such as the cabins.
Many of the cabin are poor and very old, and possibly are
overpriced as accommodations. The present trend appears to be
away from the large luxury hotels, and toward clean, modern,
and reasonably priced accommodations of the motel type. When
the present large hotels are scraped it is unlikely that any
others will take their place. An exception to this may be noted
in the Rockefeller built lodge in Grand Teton National Park, but
that can be explained in the special circumstances attending its
construction. The Old Faithful Inn, first built by the Northern
Pacific Railroad Company in 1891, burned in 1896; the second one
burned in 1901; and the present one, the third, dates from 1906.
In a comparison of the cost of building a new one room cabin
inside the park and outside it was shown that $729 would build
one inside the park while outside the same cabin could be built
for $660. This means that one inside the park would have to be
rented at $9.12 a day to be profitable while the one outside could
rent on the same basis of profit for $8.50 a day. It unquestionably
is more expensive to build accommodations inside the park than
outside because of the isolation factor in the park and the difficulty
of bringing materials and workmen to the building sites and of
providing utilities. It is doubtful if overnight accommodations
and dining facilities inside Yellowstone Park will ever be
possible at prices comparable to those outside on the main
highways and railroads. People who stay in the park will have to
expect a somewhat higher rate of charges than elsewhere.
There was much sentiment for new concessioners in Yellowstone.
Most of the conferees favored the introduction of new concessioners
for any new developed area that might be opened for expanding
visitor use. There was a very strong feeling that the present
concession system, which has prevailed in the park for more than
half a century, has become outmoded by changing circumstances,
that introduction of competitive operations would be in the
public interest and improve the variety, quality, and price
structure of the concessioner services in the park.
Advisory Board on MISSION 66
On Monday, April 18, the Advisory Board, then meeting in
Washington, was briefed on plans for MISSION 66 and the Staff's
work up to that time. The Board reacted favorably to the briefing.
Mr. Horace Albright, a member of the Board, stressed that the
National Park Service should give the greatest attention to
selecting its new employees because on them would depend its
future success. Personal contact, he thought, must remain an
ever present aspect of Service relations with that part of the
public visiting the parks.
Mr. Albright commented critically on the Service sign and
marker program. He mentioned that in recent years many of the
markers in the larger parks have come down, such as those
pointing out topographical features like the Continental
Divide and similar landmarks. He thought people were
interested in this type of information, and that one of
the immediate goals of the Service should be to see to it
that the parks are well signed. In discussing this point
later, the MISSION 66 Staff was in unanimous agreement with
Mr. Albright's view.
Dr. Jo Brew commented that he thought the Service should
design a distinctive gate to be used at all park entrances,
at least for all the larger scenic parks. This would serve
to give the entrance a pleasing and somewhat formal entrance
and would at the same time serve to advertise the type of area
to the public. Many people do not have a clear notion of what
Government agency administers the national parks and often confuse
the National Park Service with the Forest Service. This idea
was favorably received by others of the Board.
The Pilot Studies
Natchez Trace Parkway
(NPS Photo, HPC-000145)
Response received from Service personnel in the Regional
Offices, in the parks, and the discussions at the Regional
Directors' conference relating to the MISSION 66 plan caused
the Director to decide that Mr. Garrison and Mr. Carnes should
visit each of the Regional Offices and the two Design Offices.
The purpose of their trip was to explain in some detail the
purposes and objectives of the MISSION 66 work, so that field
personnel would have a better understanding of the part they
where to play in the development of individual park plans.
Garrison and Carnes set out on a western trip toward the end
of April and returned from it on May 6. Subsequently, they and
members of the Staff went to the Region One and Five Offices.
At Region Five, Eastern Office of Design and Construction
personnel joined in the conference. These meetings seemed to have
a beneficial result, and undoubtedly gave to the Regional and
Design Offices personnel a clearer idea of the MISSION 66 Plan
and the scope of work to be accomplished in drawing up a sound
plan for each park.
After these meetings, the several Regional Offices established
MISSION 66 Committees within their own organization and scheduled
a series of meetings with Park Superintendents and their staff. In
this way, by the end of June, a rather complete indoctrination of
the purpose and scope of MISSION 66 had been spread throughout the
personnel of the Service. With very few exceptions, Service personnel,
from the Director's Office to the smallest park staff, proceeded to
give their best efforts and thoughts to the project.
On June 27, 1955, the Director issued Memorandum No. 3. It set
the stage for the next big step in the MISSION 66 Plan the
preparation of the individual MISSION 66 park prospectuses. This
memorandum announced the seven Pilot Studies the MISSION 66 Staff
could undertake. An eighth pilot study, that on Mesa Verde National
Park, was to be prepared by the Region Three Office. Of the seven
studies the Staff was responsible for, that on Mt. Rainier had been
finished, and preliminary drafts on Fort Laramie and the Everglades
had been prepared at this time.
Memorandum No. 3 reviewed the work already accomplished, set
forth procedures for carrying it forward, and outlined current
activities of the Staff. The Director indicated that a MISSION 66
prospectus was to be prepared for each park by the park staff, with
assistance as needed from the Regional Offices. The drafts of these
prospectuses were to be in the Washington Office not later than
July 20. The memorandum outlined what was wanted in the prospectuses.
Copies of the prospectuses were to be furnished the appropriate
Regional and Design Office for review and comment.
In Memorandum No. 3, Mr. Wirth directed that "Officials in
charge of areas and offices are requested to see that each
employee is familiar with the purposes and objectives of MISSION
66; that each employee has the opportunity to read this memorandum
and memoranda numbered 1 and 2 of February 18 and March 17 respectively;
and that each is invited to participate in furthering the objectives."
Made a part of this memorandum for field guidance was a list of
seven principles guiding MISSION 66 Staff in its work on the pilot
studies, and a related list of seven precepts. These were to apply
also to the prospectuses the park staffs would prepare. Again the
Director emphasized that "precedent, practices, priorities, et
cetera, are to be disregarded in approaching our problems anew.
Each area is to be considered as a separate problem. The conclusions
reached in the study of one area are not to be considered as being
applicable to other areas."
Following the completion of the Mount Rainier Pilot Study and the
conferences with the Yellowstone Park staff on the prospectus for that
park, the MISSION 66 Staff began work on May 2 on two other pilot
studies, those for Fort Laramie and Everglades National Park. The
Staff split into teams for this work. During May and June the several
pilot studies were prepared and made ready for review by the Steering
Committee and the Superintendents of the respective parks to which
they related. In this period, however, staff work was not devoted
exclusively to the pilot studies, as other matters associated with
the MISSION 66 work claimed a large part of the time.
The Everglades Pilot Study: On July 11, Superintendent Daniel
B. Beard and Mr. George W. Fry of his staff, together with Mr.
V. R. Ludgate of the Region One staff and Mr. Ed Zimmer, Chief
Eastern Office, Division of Design and Construction, met with the
MISSION 66 Staff in Washington to consider the Everglades prospectus.
The discussions on the Everglades extended to the 13th, but
not all the time was devoted to that subject since Mr. Wirth had
to meet with the Staff on other matters for several hours on the
12th and 13th. Mr. Garrison, Mr. Vint, Mr. Langley, Mr. Doer, and
Mr. Neilson of the Steering Committee sat in on the Everglades
discussion part of the time.
The principal arguments centered around whether the park headquarters
should be in or out of the park. Superintendent Beard strongly supported
the principle that it should be in the park. Several of the Steering
Committee and Staff favored it outside the park, at Homestead. There
also was much talk on whether the park should contract for maintenance
of its equipment, or contract for use of equipment. Beard and Fry thought
it would be cheaper to have a park mechanic maintain their own equipment.
There was discussion both for and against a trailer court in the park.
On the 13th, Mr. Wirth joined the Everglades discussion group,
and Mr. Beard outlined the discussions and the agreements reached
which would be reflected in the park prospectus.
Events were to prove that the discussions on this prospectus had
not resolved all the issues relating to the development and use of
the Everglades. A number of alternations in, and some additions to,
the prospectus were made during the next year. No doubt experience
with this new kind of park would bring still others. The work on this
park prospectus showed all too clearly that it was not always to solve
specific problems by the application of a fine-sounding principle.
The Adams House Pilot Study: The next pilot study to be reviewed
was that for Adams National Historic Site. Regional Director Tobin of
Region Five and Hodge Hanson of the Eastern Office, Design and
Construction on July 21 participated with the Staff and some members
of the Steering Committee in this review. The Staff prospectus was
accepted with virtually no change. This study occasioned less
differences of opinion than any previously undertaken. The approved
park prospectus reflects the results of this pilot study.
The Fort Laramie Pilot Study: Following the Adams study came
that for Fort Laramie. To participate in its review, Superintendent
David L. Hieb came from Fort Laramie and Regional Landscape Architect
Harvey P. Benson came from the Region Two Office. Copies of the Staff
prospectus had been provided these offices in advance. It was known
that neither the Superintendent nor certain persons in the Regional
Office liked the Staff study. It had departed in several important
respects from the previously partially approve proposed development
sheets of the Park Master Plan.
The discussions on July 25-26 disclosed that Superintendent Hieb
was opposed to nearly every part of the Staff Study and wanted to
stand fast on the developments proposed in the Mater Plan, a plan
which he had helped to chart. Two or three members of the Staff
attempted to defend the proposals of the Staff study, but their
relative lack of detailed information on the site as compared with
that possessed by the Superintendent placed them at a disadvantage
in the sometimes heated debate. The major issues concerned the Staff
proposals to build the park entrance from the north, to terminate the
the entrance road near the Cavalry Barracks, to convert the Cavalry
Barracks to Park Headquarters and Visitor Center use, and acquire
little more land. This plan would permit an immediate development
of the area. The alternate plan involved considerable land
acquisition; new buildings, including a Visitor Center on the
other side of Laramie Creek from the Fort proper; and a rather
long walk across the stream to the main parts of the Fort. In the
end, the Superintendent's arguments won the day in the Steering
Committee an part of the Staff, and the vote was for the old Master
Plan proposals. The prospectus was changed accordingly.
The Staff members registered a minority view in the decision.
The period of history to be emphasized in the development, however,
was changed from an 1889 period piece to a varied picture reflecting
the many aspect of the Site's importance from 1834 on down to 1890
when the post was abandoned and sold by the Army. The period of the
Fort John period 1841 on into the 1850's was to be emphasized as
much as possible.
Shiloh Pilot Study: After the heated sessions on the Fort Laramie
pilot study had terminated, relative calm descended on the MISSION 66
Staff with the taking up next of the Shiloh National Military Park pilot
study. On July 28-29, Superintendent Ira B. Lykes and Messrs. A. P.
Bursley and V. R. Ludgate of the Region One Office participated with
the Staff in discussing this study. There was unanimous agreement on
all important points, and difference of opinion on only a few
relatively minor matters of the study. The approved prospectus reflects
the proposals of this pilot study.
Chaco Canyon Pilot Study: In some respects the discussions and
review on August 2-5 of the Chaco Canyon National Monument Staff
pilot study with Superintendent Glen T. Bean, H. A. Marsh of Southwestern
National Monuments, and Jerome C. Miller, Regional Landscape Architect,
Region Three, resembled that on Fort Laramie. The Staff and Steering
Committee members had appeared unanimous in approving the pilot study
before the Superintendent and the others from Region Three arrived.
The Superintendent was opposed to the main points of the pilot study,
however, and wanted to retain the Master Plan proposals with virtually
no change. The MISSION 66 Staff innovators who had approached the
problem by casting aside precedent were having a hard time.
The principal differences among the conferees concerned the
Master Plan proposal to build a road down the Canyon floor to the
major ruins, with the Visitor Center in the valley adjacent to the
great ruins. The pilot study proposed to bring the park road a short
distance from the highway along high ground to the rim of the canyon
at a point overlooking the ruins. There the visitor center would be
built. For those who did not wish archeological details and a trip
through the ruins, a clear picture of the canyon with its great ruins,
distant not more than two or three hundred yards, would be in front
of and directly below them. For those who wanted to reach the ruins,
a short foot trail down from the rim would take them there. This
plan would keep all developments such as roads, parking areas, and
buildings out of the valley and the close proximity of of the ruins.
This in itself was considered by several of the Staff to be a
desirable objective. The whole valley at the time of major use by
its former aboriginal occupants had been of importance. Employee
housing would go in the most sheltered place in the monument and
would not need to be near the visitor center or park headquarters.
In the end, all members of the Steering Committee who had voted
favorable on the original pilot study reversed themselves and voted
for the old Master Plan proposals, as did a majority of the Staff.
Two members of the Staff held out to the last for the Pilot Study.
The final score of action recommendations to the Director on the
pilot studies stood that two were rejected, two accepted as prepared,
and three accepted in part and modified in part.
Mesa Verde Pilot Study: The Region Three Office pilot study of
Mesa Verde National Park had a shockeyed reception in the Staff and
Steering Committee, and with the Director and key members of his
staff, when they reviewed it. The principal bone of contention
centered around the question of whether to remove much of the park
operation and concession activities from the Mesa to the valley below.
The difficulties of reaching and holding to a decision on this major
consideration continued on after the decision was reached to move
the concessioner activities from the mesa to the valley. This tentative
decision was subsequently modified, and the Mesa Verde prospectus
kept under continuing study.
The experience of the Staff, the Steering Committee, and the Director
with the pilot studies showed that it was not going to be an easy matter
to arrive at decisions and plans for all parks without engendering some
heat. It was clear that, despite guiding principles and precepts, various
people were going to have different ideas of what constituted the best
and most suitable plan for park development and public use. And each
thought that his plan promised the best protection of a park's unique
Although the Steering Committee and the MISSION 66 Staff completed
work on the several pilot study prospectuses in August, and Mr. Wirth
made some tentative decisions concerning them at that time, it was not
until later that he gave personal approval to them. On October 24, Mr.
Wirth met with the Staff and reviewed the action and status of each
prospectus. At that time he approved the Adams and Shiloh prospectuses.
He was reluctant to approve all aspects of the Mt. Rainier Prospectus,
especially that part calling for moving the park headquarters out of
the park to a new location at lower elevation. He said that he would
approve it, however, on the basis of land use and not on the economies
of the proposal. He approved the Everglades prospectus except for the
park road which he wanted given more study. Prior to review of the
Fort Laramie Staff Pilot Study with the Superintendent, the Director
had read the study and voiced strong support of it. Now he reluctantly
went along with the majority vote of the Steering Committee and Staff
discarding that Pilot Study. He approve the Chaco Canyon prospectus with
the provision that there should be a study in the field as to the
feasibility of building the entrance road on top of the plateau to the
rim of the canyon, as proposed initially in the Pilot Study, before
the Visitor Center and road in the valley were built as called for in
the majority vote of the Steering Committee and Staff.
The Poll National Parks Study
Soon after the MISSION 66 Staff began work it learned of the
prospect that a private donation might make possible a sample poll
of the public about the National Park System. This poll was prompted
by the fact that more space was needed in the park for public
facilities. This private contribution for the poll did indeed become
a fact. During April and May staff members of Audience Research, Inc.
began work on a questionnaire after consultation with Mr. Wirth and
some of his staff. The draft of a questionnaire came to the MISSION 66
Staff for study and comment. It gave the questionnaire careful study
and prepared a memorandum suggesting changes in certain questions, the
deletion of some, and the addition of others. The MISSION 66 Staff comment
on the Poll questionnaire was ready by May 16. The research organization
proposed to conduct the poll by drawing a national sample of adults which
included both those who had visited the parks and those who had not. This
would be done in personal interviews by interviewers. The poll established
some interview points near several of the parks, yet far enough away that
the persons being interviewed would not associate the interview with park
employees. A specific purpose of this part of the poll was to get the
reaction of park visitors to park accommodations and facilities while their
impressions were still fresh.
A result of some visitor reactions as revealed by the survey bearing
on the conclusions of the MISSION 66 Study may be useful here. The survey
was published in multilithed form in December 1955 in a limited number of
copies. It was entitled, "A Survey of the Public Concerning the National
Parks," (119 pages), conducted for the National Park Service, Department
of the Interior, December 1955, Audience Research, Inc., Princeton, New
The survey findings were based on interviews with 1,754 United
States adults made in 157 different places in cities, towns, and
rural areas in the period from November 25 to December 31, 1955.
Of 1,300 persons interviewed in the main operation, 264 had visited
one or more national parks in the last five years. In order to obtain
a larger number of interviewees with experience in the national parks,
a supplementary additional 454 persons were interviewed who had
visited the national parks during the past five years. This gave, of
the total of 1,754 interviewed, a total of 716 persons who had
visited in the national parks during the past 5 years.
The principal findings of the survey, which in general confirmed
the conclusions already reached by the MISSION 66 Staff, were as
follows: 69 per cent had complaints of one kind or another; there
were many complaints against facilities available in the parks; there
were very few complaints against National Park Service personnel.
The most numerous single complaint was overcrowding 1/3 had
that complaint. The next most numerous complaint was against sleeping
accommodations; half those who had stayed overnight in the parks said
more accommodations were needed; 1/10 said cabins were poorly maintained.
Altogether, the complaints against sleeping accommodations was the
principal reason given by visitors for the parks not coming up to their
expectation. Approximately 1/3 said more eating facilities were needed;
1/7 were dissatisfied with the roads; 1/10 thought the grounds were not
as clean as they should have been.
Motels were given as the preferred type of accommodation, and
among those who thought they might visit the parks in the future
this preference was more pronounced than among those who had visited
the parks recently. Only 8 per cent indicated a desire to use a hotel;
in contrast 34 per cent wanted a cabin, 43 per cent a motel, 14 per
cent a campground. Of those who had been in the parks, 70 per cent had
been there for one day or less, 29 per cent stayed overnight in a park,
28 percent stayed overnight near a park; 49 per cent did not stay
overnight in or near a park. Most of the people visiting a national park
had available more vacation time than the two weeks or less common to
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Public Services Conference
Colonial National Historical Park
(NPS Photo, HPC-000461)
After the MISSION 66 work had progressed beyond its initial steps,
and the course it was to follow had steadied a bit, Mr. Wirth informed
the Steering Committee and Staff that he expected certain definite
accomplishments to be in hand by the latter part of September. As early
as June 30, he told the Staff he wanted the 8 pilot studies finished,
legislation blocked out, principles guiding the study written out, and a
balanced program drafted ready for the Public Services Conference to be
held at the Great Smoky Mountains beginning September 20.
This was to be the regular conference of Park Service Superintendents
with the Director and the principal members of his staff, the Regional
Directors and selected members of their staffs, and the Chiefs of the
Eastern and Western Offices of Design and Construction. Mr. Wirth made
it clear to the Staff that he expected the Conference to review the
MISSION 66 Plan. For that purpose he wanted certain documents ready for
distribution to persons attending the Conference.
First, he wanted a balanced statement and budget for the plan to be
written and reproduced. Secondly, he wanted a brief popular booklet with
charts and tables summarizing the more important statistics on visitor
use, needs, proposed facilities and costs, and a pictorial
representation of some of the more wide-spread problems. Thirdly, he
wanted a talk prepared that would represent his ideas on the MISSION 66
plan, its then present status, and what he expected to be done with it
before completion. After outlining his intention of making a strong
presentation of the MISSION 66 subject to the General Services
Conference, Mr. Wirth said that he would schedule four two-hour meetings
with the Staff during the next week, July 11-14, to discuss in some
detail the things he wanted included in these documents. He also
indicated his intention at that time of reviewing the work of the Staff
On July 11, Mr. Wirth discussed with the Staff the nature of the
MISSION 66 Report for the General Services Conference. Among other
things, he said he wanted chapters on employee housing, visitor housing,
concessions, camping, roads, and administrative facilities. This
document he expected to be the "bible" for MISSION 66 thereafter. The
next day he continued discussion of this report. He concluded by saying
that he wanted to be ready on January 1, 1956 to go to Congress with the
whole completed plan for the ten-year program. On the 13th, he said he
wanted a performance type of report, one that would give total costs for
various units of construction. Three pieces of legislation that he
considered urgent for the MISSION 66 plan were the following: 1)
legislation to help finance concession activities, principally for
providing overnight accommodations; 2) inquire into feasibility of a
contractual authorization for constructing buildings and utilities in
the parks; 3) inquire into feasibility of establishing a revolving fund
for erecting employee housing. On the 14th, Mr. Wirth reviewed all he
had outlined for the Staff to do and said that he would consult with the
Staff again when he returned to Washington on August 15, about a month
Everyone on the Staff felt that the Director had given a pretty heavy
assignment, and wondered if it could be accomplished by the middle of
September. After the pilot studies were finished, all members of the
Staff devoted as much time as possible on one or another of the three
jobs to be done. For this purpose, the Staff split up in its work on the
three documents to avoid duplication of effort. The entire Staff,
however, reviewed all work as it progressed and made contributions to
each document as it was completed.
The Staff worked steadily on three main tables; 1) the Director's
statement on the General Services Conference; 2) the MISSION 66 Report;
and 3) a rough dummy for the popular booklet. Frank Buffmire of the
Museum Branch prepared the layout for the popular booklet, with the
final dummy being done commercially.
On August 16, Mr. Wirth and members of the Steering Committee met
with the Staff and discussed certain MISSION 66 matters along with a
review of the Mesa Verde National Pak pilot prospectus. On the 22nd, the
Director and the Steering Committee met again with the Staff and
discussed certain key matters that had been debated in the Staff for
months. In this meeting the view that it would be unwise to have an
omnibus bill introduced in Congress on MISSION 66 problems was given
very careful consideration. The prevailing view was that bills should
deal with specific problems, separating one problem from another.
Otherwise, objections to part of an omnibus bill might kill the entire
proposal such bills had a way of consolidating opposition and
sacrificed non-controversial items.
At this meeting Mr. Wirth decided that the land acquisition program
under the MISSION 66 Plan should include a yearly appropriation of
$1,000,000 for general land acquisition and an added $500,000
appropriation to be used on a matching donated fund basis. If the
matching donated money became available this would provide $2,000,000
annually for land acquisition.
Mr. Wirth also decided another point that had been the subject of
much debate, namely, should there be a campground fee? He held the view
strongly that there should not be a fee. He also said that he was
personally against park entrance fees. At least one member of the Staff
was delighted to hear that expression of view.
The next day, August 23, Mr. Wirth met again with the Steering
Committee and Staff. On the question of employee housing which had taken
much of the Staff's time during the past several months, Mr. Wirth,
after hearing various arguments, stated that he favored a 50-year
amortization instead of the currently used 40-year period as the basis
for establishing rents. This would result in lowering the pay period
rental charge from $24 to $19 or $20. Mr. Wirth said he wanted housing
rentals established so that housing would stand on its own feet
On September 15, the Director had a final session with the Staff
preceding the General Services Conference. At this time, he directed
that the program for the first five years of the Plan be broken down
into successive years, and that by October 14 all 10 years of the Plan
be so broken down. He informed Mr. Langley that he could go to
$8,000,000 in preparing the building and utilities program in the 1957
fiscal year budget. Mr. Wirth stated that all members of the MISSION 66
Staff were invited to attend the General Services Conference.
The Staff completed on time for distribution and use at the
Conference; 1) a 22 page, green cover, illustrated popular booklet on
MISSION 66, entitled, "The National Park System"; and 2) a 43 page,
green backed, "MISSION 66 Report." All members of the Staff except Mr.
Appleman attended the Great Smoky Mountains General Services Conference.
They took with them the preliminary park prospectuses thus far received
and certain other MISSION 66 data that had been assembled. At the
conference, members of the Staff set up shop in a room adjoining the
conference room where they had the opportunity of discussing the MISSION
66 work and the individual park prospectuses with many of the park
True to his purpose, Mr. Wirth, on September 20, opened the
conference with an effective statement of the MISSION 66 plan. He
summarized the major proposals of the plan in eight points, and promised
that the details of the plan would be ready in one package later in the
fall. Mr. Wirth emphasized that the plan was based on three assumption:
1) that the Service must plan for a total of 80 million visits by 1966;
2) that this visitor load must be accommodated without undue harm to the
parks; and 3) that plans for the future must include all existing
facilities that were useable. On this basis the solutions for each
park's problems were being sought.
The Director's statement before the General Services Conference
became the basis for a slide talk with tape recording on MISSION 66 that
was produced in quantity, and distributed to the Regional Offices for
circulation to the parks for use in acquainting the Public with the
The conference advanced a better understanding of what was being
attempted in the MISSION 66 plan and heightened the already mounting
enthusiasm of Service employees for the undertaking. Important
representatives of the press attended parts or all of the conference and
publicized it throughout the country in influential newspapers,
including The New York Times. To an ever-increasing number of
daily newspaper readers MISSION 66 was rapidly becoming a well-known
phrase associated with the National Park Service's plan for the
Prospect of a MISSION 66 Cabinet Meeting
Big Bend National Park
(NPS Photo, HPC-000271)
Long before the General Services Conference at Great Smoky Mountains
Park in September, Director Wirth and the MISSION 66 Staff had known
that the MISSION 66 plan might be presented before President Eisenhower
and the Cabinet. The Staff first learned of this possibility on May 13
when Mr. Wirth called them into his office. He said that the night
before Mr. Harry Donohue of Assistant Secretary Lewis' office had told
him there was a prospect that the MISSION 66 plan might be presented
before the Cabinet. Also present in the Director's Office on the 13th
when he announced this news were Messrs. Lon Garrison, R. F. Lee, H. E.
Evison, Thomas J. Allen, Henry Langley, and Phil King. Mr. James
Cullinane of the Secretary's Office was present. It appeared that there
might be two presentations before the President and the Cabinet. The
first might be in the immediate future which would outline the problem
facing the Service and the Nation, then sketch the tentative plan and
hat had been accomplished on it to date. Th second, later in the fall,
would present the proposals of the final plan after an on-the-spot
survey of the 1955 summer use.
Mr. Wirth said his information was that about 25 minutes would be
allowed for presenting MISSION 66 to the Cabinet. He then outlined what
he wanted included in a statement to run that length of time. He wanted
interpretation emphasized as the foremost aid of protection. He
estimated the document would have to be ready in about 6 weeks or 2
months. He envisioned it as the foundation of a structure; on it the
house would be built later.
From this day on into the following January hardly a day passed that
the Staff did not hear new rumors about the Cabinet presentation, the
date it was to be given, that it had been called off, that the Assistant
Secretary would make the entire presentation, then that Mr. Wirth might
make part of it. Throughout all this time the Staff was working in one
way or another on the projected Cabinet presentation of MISSION 66, and
was also trying to keep the other several parts of the MISSION 66 work
How did the idea of a Cabinet presentation originate? Who had the
idea? At the time it first came to their attention, the Staff did not
know. And they learned very little more on this point in all the months
that precede the actual Cabinet presentation.
At first, all information on the subject came to Mr. Wirth from the
Secretary's office. The Secretariat to the Cabinet for a considerable
time communicated with Assistant Secretary Orme Lewis' office since he
was responsible within the Department for National Park Service affairs.
At the time the word first came that there might be a hearing before the
Cabinet, Mr. Lewis was in Europe and Mr. Donohue, in his absence, acted
as the principal liaison with the Service on the subject. Only several
months after the MISSION 66 plan was presented to the President and the
Cabinet did anyone in the National Park Service learn fully just how the
whole thing had come about. Perhaps this is the best place to relate how
the MISSION 66 Cabinet meeting was conceived.
Mr. Maxwell M. Rabb, Secretary to the Cabinet, conceived the idea. He
had read an editorial in the Saturday Evening Post describing
deplorable conditions in the national parks and the need for improved
and modernized visitor accommodations.
One day at the White House offices of the Cabinet Secretariat Mr.
Rabb mentioned to his Assistant, Mr. Bradley H. Patterson, Jr., that he
had been thinking about the Post editorial and he wondered if the
condition of the national parks would not be a good subject for Cabinet
discussion. Mr. Patterson agreed that it was a subject of potential
Cabinet and Presidential interest and volunteered to work on the subject
with the Interior Department for a possible presentation. Patterson's
subsequent telephone call to the Department was the first word officials
there had that such a thing was being considered. It is clear that the
initiation of the idea for the MISSION 66 Cabinet meeting came from the
Secretariat to the Cabinet, and not from either the Department of the
Interior or the National Park Service. 1/
1/ Interview, Roy E. Appleman with Bradley H.
Patterson, Jr., and Maxwell M. Rabb in the White House, June 25, 1956.
Most of the discussion concerning White House participation in the
MISSION 66 project is based, in part at least, on this
So it was a fortuitous circumstance that brought the telephone call
from the White House a few months after the MISSION 66 Staff had begun
work on the problem. Mr. Patterson informed the write that the Cabinet
Secretariat pays close attention to national periodicals having a wide
circulation in order to note those problems in the field of Federal
governmental responsibility receiving public criticism. The Secretariat,
he said, considers it its duty to arrange to have such problems brought
before the Cabinet whenever possible for the purpose of seeking a proper
solution in the public interest. Thus, the press may be considered to
have been indirectly responsible for the Cabinet meeting that eventually
came about on the Park Service problem. Mr. Patterson has indicated that
this form of action by the Secretariat is something relatively new,
originating with the Secretariat after it was established in the
Eisenhower Administration. Since 1954, Mr. Patterson stated, there had
been many presentations before the Cabinet of their problems by
responsible persons from the Bureaus and Departments. That of MISSION 66
by the National Park Service was not one of the first.
Following Mr. Patterson's first telephone call to the Department on
this matter, and Mr. Donohue's subsequent conversation with Mr. Wirth
about it, Messrs. Harry J. Donohue, James J. Cullinane, and John J.
Shanklin of the Secretary's Office and Mr. Garrison, Chairman of the
MISSION 66 Steering Committee, went to the White House to discuss the
idea of a Cabinet presentation with Mr. Rabb and Mr. Patterson. At this
meeting, the White House Cabinet Secretariat learned for the first time
that Mr. Wirth had constituted within the National Park Service a
special staff which for several months had been engaged exclusively in
working on the very problem in which it was interested. Following this
meeting, Mr. Wirth and the Office of the Secretary decided that the
MISSION 66 Staff would work with the Cabinet Secretariat in preparing
material for a possible Cabinet presentation. After a review of this
material Assistant Secretary Lewis, Under Secretary Davis, and the
Secretariat would decide if and when a presentation should be made
before the Cabinet.
In the period of May 17 - 20 the Staff worked on individual proposed
outlines for a Cabinet paper. These were then turned over to Mr. Carnes
for review. On May 20, Mr. Donohue from the Secretary's Office came in
to the Staff room and said that very likely the MISSION 66 subject would
be given at one of the last Cabinet meetings before the summer vacation
period. On June 16 a Staff draft of the proposed Cabinet paper was ready
and Mr. Wirth, with Mr. Cullinane from the Secretary's Office, went over
it with the Staff. A tentative date of July 8 was then given as the
probably date for the Cabinet presentation. Mr. Lewis was expected back
from Europe momentarily. June 22 was scheduled as the day he would
review the draft statement. On the 21st, Mr. Donohue brought word to the
Staff that Mr. Lewis wanted a series of large graphs and a large map
prepared as part of the presentation materials. The next day, June 22 at
3 p.m., Mr. Lewis auditioned in room 4616 a tape recording of the
proposed Cabinet talk and the color slides and film strip illustrating
it. He said little after listening to the talk and watching the slides,
but he appeared to be pleased rather than displeased with it.
In the preceding month the Steering Committee, the Staff, other
members of the Director's Staff, and the Director himself had discuss
just what form the Cabinet presentation should take. Some members
favored a formal talk or statement with a few charts for statistical
purposes. Others wanted a picture type presentation, composed largely of
slides and possibly motion picture. Advocates of this viewpoint thought
the Cabinet member would enjoy relaxation from heavy burdens of their
offices and that such a presentation would gain the most favor. Those
who opposed this viewpoint held that the Cabinet members were men
accustomed to serious matters and were, for the most part, able men who
wold expect a businesslike, brisk, serious presentation of the subject.
They thought a movie might appear frivolous to the Cabinet and result in
an unfavorable reception.
As it worked out, the Cabinet presentation material was a compromise
between these two viewpoints. There was to be a serious, concise
statement of the Park Service Problem, proposed solutions, and a request
for Administration and Congressional support of the program. Parts of
the talk would be illustrated by slides and movies, but these features
were to be subordinated to the oral presentation itself. Certain graphs
of large scale were to be prepared and ready for use as desired by the
speaker. These were to emphasize certain statistical aspects of the
By July 5 the large charts Mr. Lewis had wanted for the presentation
were ready for his review. They had been prepared on short notice over
the 4th of July weekend. Artists from National Capital Parks, The Bureau
of Fish and Wildlife, and The Bureau of Land Management had assisted in
their preparation. That day Mr. Lewis, and Mr. Donahue, and Mr.
Cullinane of his staff, came into the MISSION 66 Staff room and studied
them. With some he was pleased; others he wanted changed. Again on the
7th, Assistant Secretary Lewis reviewed the charts and color movie
material obtained in some of the parks for possible use in the
A dry run in the Interior Department of the proposed Cabinet
presentation by Mr. Lewis was attended by Mr. Rabb and Mr. Patterson of
the Cabinet Secretariat. Mr. Rabb thought that further preparation for
the Cabinet meeting was necessary. This, together with the fact that the
lateness of the season and the probability that the President and the
Cabinet would meet only once or twice more before adjourning the
meetings until later in the year, brought the decision that it would be
impossible to have the MISSION 66 presentation until later. Mr. Rabb
also took the position that Mr. Wirth, as Director of the National Park
Service, should have a part in the Cabinet presentation when it took
place. From this time on, while no definite and conclusive arrangements
were made in the matter, it began to appear that Mr. Wirth would have
some part in the presentation, but just what it would be was not clear
for a long time.
With the Cabinet presentation indefinitely delayed in July, the Staff
devoted most of its time during the next two months to other matters,
particularly to that of completing the MISSION 66 Report Mr. Wirth
wanted for the September General Services Conference.
The Cabinet Secretariat, in the course of consultation with
Departmental and Service representatives in the summer, had suggested
that the term "MISSION 66" not be used publicly by the Service or the
Department in referring to the planning studies under way. The
Secretariat's ideas was that this term should first be used by the
President when he referred to the plan if he approved and supported it
following a Cabinet presentation. But at the General Services Conference
at Great Smoky Mountains National Park the term inevitably came out, and
it was printed in the New York Times and other newspapers
reporting the proceedings of the Conference. Thereafter, it was used
rather generally in the press in references to the National Park Service
THE FINAL MISSION 66 REPORT
Following the General Services Conference near the end of September,
the Staff worked all during October in conducting certain interviews
that up to that time had not been possible, in completing revision of
some of the pilot studies, and proceeding with plans for the final
MISSION 66 Report. Mr. Wirth had stated that he wanted this ready by the
end of November. Word came too, on October 28, that the tentative date
for the MISSION 66 White House presentation was December 9. The Director
expected to announce a rather definite date for it after he had
discussed the matter with Assistant Secretary Wesley D'Ewart, who had
succeeded Mr. Orme Lewis, resigned. That meant more work would be
crowding on the Staff.
An interesting meeting in the Staff room took place on October 25
when Mr. Max K. Gilstrap, of the Christian Science Monitor,
arrived to confer with the Director and the Staff on a series of
articles he proposed to prepare for the Monitor on the MISSION 66
program. Mr. Wirth came in just after 11 o'clock and spent abou two
hours talking to Mr. Gilstrap and the Staff. His comments apparently
reflected his frame of mind at that time. Mr. Wirth rarely, if ever, was
more eloquent in discussing the plan with the Staff then on that
He said that the 1957 budget would carry the first year of MISSION 66
financing. He had just confirmed this point with officials of the
Secretary's Office. Mr. Wirth went on to direct that Mr. Langley prepare
a tabulation of projects in Buildings and Utilities that ame within the
previous $4,400,000 for that category in the 1957 fiscal year budget
estimates, and a second tabulation to list additions which would fall
within the MISSION 66 increased financing, and then total these two
columns. He said the MISSION 66 program would receive more publicity on
November 21 when Secretary McKay dedicated Big Bend National Park. The
Secretary intended to devote most of his talk to the program.
Mr. Wirth went on to outline his plan of action under the MISSION 66
program. He wanted small areas put in good shape. In them, much could
be accomplished and a good showing made with the expenditure of a
relatively small amount of money. He wanted to complete the development
of Grand Teton National Park; it already was well along. He emphasized
that the MISSION 66 program was not primarily a construction program
construction was only the means to an end the end was the
important thing for MISSION 66. He reiterated that he wanted a sound
In the final MISSION 66 Report he said he wanted the precepts to be
well expressed since he considered them to be most important. The report
as a whole he wanted as well written as the Service could do it. He
indicated that major items should be listed and particularized,
including such things as miles of roads to be constructed or rebuilt; a
tabulation of camp facilities needed and where proposed (Mr. Wirth was
against organized camp ground as favoring special groups and classes); a
tabulation of interpretive facilities in terms of visitor centers,
museum installations, and similar facilities, with statistics to support
proposed costs. He said he wanted something better than guesses. He
wanted the report just as honest as we could make it, one that would
reflect the need in each park for a 10-year plan to serve an estimated
total of 80,000,000 visits in 1966. Further, he said he wanted all our
back-up material retained; he wanted a record kept of how figures were
arrive at for any particular part of the report.
On October 28 Mr. Wirth met again with the Staff. At that time he
instructed it to stop reviewing individual park prospectuses for the
present, and to devote full time henceforth to the completion of the
final MISSION 66 Report. He suggested that the Staff divide into teams
to do the drafting of various sections. He said he would review the
draft as they were completed.
Preparatory to work on the final report, the Staff had prepared
Memorandum No. 4 which was sent to the Washington and all field Offices
under date of October 7, 1955. This memorandum outlined the form the
final MISSION 66 Report was to take, both in terms of the overall
Service report and of the individual park prospectuses. It indicated
there would be three MISSION 66 planning documents: 1) a popular type
booklet for general distribution: 2) a detailed official report with
statistics, charts, graphs, and explanations of the proposed development
and operating programs, workload figures, and fund requirements in the
format used for appropriation estimates: 3) final prospectus for each
park. All park officials were requested to begin preparation immediately
of the data needed for completion in Washington of item No. 2, the
detailed MISSION 66 Report. This material was to be in the Director's
Office on or before November 15. A copy would go from the park to the
appropriate Regional and Design Offices at the same time it was sent to
the Director. Details of the park development programs were to be
tabulated according to sample forms provided as attachments to
Memorandum No. 4.
On December 2, Mr. Wirth advised the Staff that he had an appointment
with the Secretary for December 1 to go over the MISSION 66 final
report. Accordingly, he wanted it finished by December 9. He had just
received word, he said, that the Cabinet meeting in the third week of
January probably would include the MISSION 66 presentation in its
agenda. On the 5th he went over various parts of the draft report,
approving some and suggested changes in others. At this meeting he
directed that certain very expensive items in the program be removed
from the MISSION 66 program and set aside for special legislation and
action; examples of these were the developments at Independence National
Historical Park, Federal Hall National Memorial in New York, and the
proposed Sports Center in Washington in the National Capital Parks
The Director had gone over with the Staff its outline for the final
report. Some changes and additions to it were made, and it then was
adopted as the basis for writing the report. The report was to have a
foreword and five chapters. The first chapter was to be a brief
explanation of what the National Park System is and something of its
background; Chapter 2 was to state the problem; Chapter 3 was to give
the 10-year program to meet the problem; Chapter 4 was to outline
legislation needed; and Chapter 4 was to indicate briefly the gains to
be expected from carrying out the MISSION 66 plan. The Staff members
assumed specific assignments to work individually or in teams on parts
of the report. On this basis the work went forward. The various drafts
were reviewed by the whole Staff. All figures of construction costs and
staffing were checked by Mr. Wirth personally before they became part of
the report. He knew what was in the report; all along he had guided the
form it would take and he had approved or made decisions on important
activities and budgeting for them.
Complicating the work on the final MISSION 66 Report somewhat were
the special talks the Staff had to prepare for the Director during
October and November on the MISSION 66 Plan. He gave talks on this
subject at that time before the Garden Club of America in New York and
before the National Conference of Editorial Writers at Great Falls,
Prior to the completion of the final MISSION 66 Report, the Director
discussed fully the main proposals to be embodied in the document with
representatives of many conservation organizations in one of the monthly
meetings he had been holding with representatives of those groups. As a
result of that discussion the Director had Point 8 added in the final
report and to the text of the booklet, Our Heritage, to outline
an 8-point program. Point No. 8 was designed to set a rest some
apprehensions that the 7-point program proposed neglected Wilderness
values. In fact, the principle of wilderness preservation had never been
an issue in the Staff discussions, and the preservation of wilderness
values was a built-in feature of the MISSION 66 program. Taken together,
the precepts that stated the central guiding thought in the MISSION 66
plan guaranteed wilderness preservation. Although the Director and the
Staff felt that Point 8 was superfluous, that it stated something that
was implicit in the whole body of the report, nevertheless adding it
was an easy and readily acquiesced sure way to quiet the fears of
Work on the MISSION 66 popular booklet went forward at the same
time the final report was being completed. A donation of private funds
would publish this booklet. The work of preparing text, designing
layout, drawing illustrations for the booklet, and printing it was
let by contract to Creative Arts Studio, Inc., Washington, D.C.
A rewrite man, using the preliminary draft of the MISSION 66 final
report worked on the text for the popular booklet. This was reviewed
by the Staff and Mr. Wirth. The draft was several thousand words
too long, and had certain literary shortcomings. In the end, Mr.
Evison worked with the rewrite man and made an important contribution
in getting the booklet text in acceptable form. Mr. Wirth personally
selected the cover design.
This popular booklet, entitled Our Heritage, ran to a
length of 36 pages without cover, was copiously illustrated with
drawings on the them of various activities in the parks, had a
text of about 12,000 words, was printed in 2 colors, and contained
a large and very handsome double page center spread in full color of
Jackson Hole and the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park (use
of color plate donated by Standard Oil Company of California). The
cover featured in full color the Liberty Bell, on which was
superimposed four figures of an American family walking forward
to symbolize confidence in the future of our country and its
institutions, dedicated to liberty of the individual. (Walter
Miller, a commercial photographer of Williamsburg, Virginia, took
the two color pictures used in making the cover. The four figures
are Mr. and Mrs. Edward M. Riley of Williamsburg and two of their
This booklet was printed in an edition of 10,000 copies at a
total cost of approximately $8,300 (about $5,000 for actual
printing). Delivery was to be early in February. Mr. Wirth indicated
that he expected to make the first distribution of it at the
Pioneer Dinner scheduled for the evening of February 8, 1956.
As it turned out, a month or two later an additional 5,000 copies
of the booklet was printed at a cost of $2,700.
The large, detailed final MISSION 66 report was to be reproduced
in multilith form in 1,000 copies, ready for use as Mr. Wirth might
decide early in January 1956. The Staff met the deadlines for both
the final report and the popular booklet. Only those of the Staff who
worked furiously to complete and make final drafts, last minute revisions,
and later to complete assembly of the copies, know what a narrow margin
of time there was left in the case of the Final MISSION 66 Report.
The President's State of the Union Message
All during December Mr. Wirth and members of the Staff had been
working with Mr. Bradley Patterson, Jr., of the Cabinet Secretariat
to complete preparation of materials for the MISSION 66 presentation
at the White House sometime in January. Mr. Patterson who, with his
family had been visiting and mountain-climbing in the National Parks
regularly since 1948, was fully familiar with the Parks and their
problems as well as with the MISSION 66 proposals. One result of the
Secretariat's interest in the MISSION 66 plan was a paragraph in the
President's State of the Union Message delivered to the Congress on
January 5, 1956. In that part of the message dealing with Resources
and Conservation the following statement appeared:
During the past year the areas of our national parks have been
expanded and new wildlife refuges have been created. The visits of
our people to the parks have increased much more rapidly than have
the facilities to care for them. The administration will submit
recommendations to provide more adequate facilities to keep abreast
of the increasing interest of our people in the great outdoors.
This in itself was a signal recognition of the extent to which
the MISSION 66 Plan had taken hold in high quarters and the support
that might be expected for it. This inclusion in the President's
Message to Congress foreshadowed the favorable reception the plan
was to receive officially from the President during and following
the Cabinet presentation.
MISSION 66 Presented at the White House
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
(NPS Photo, HPC-000514)
For a while in December it seemed that the Cabinet meeting for
MISSION 66 would be held on January 13, and plans were geared to
that date. Mr. Wirth had several "dry runs" of the presentation with
Mr. Patterson of the White House Staff and certain officials of the
Secretary's Office. Soon after Mr. D'Ewart succeeded Mr. Lewis as
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for the land management bureaus,
he and Secretary McKay decided that Mr. Wirth should make the principal
statement in support of the MISSION 66 program at the Cabinet Meeting.
Secretary McKay would introduce the subject in a brief comment requiring
only a minute or two, and say that the program had Departmental support.
Assistant Secretary D'Ewart would make some general remarks about
presenting the program to Congress after Mr. Wirth had spoken. As it
finally turned out, the MISSION 66 presentation was on the Cabinet
meeting agenda for January 27, 1956.
Before the cabinet meeting a great amount of work had been done
by Mr. Wirth and the Staff in getting the presentation in final form.
Mr. Wirth himself went over several successive drafts and made many
changes. He gave to this task a great amount of his time in the final
weeks before the Cabinet meeting.
Not so readily known to members of the Staff at the time, and
of course to others in the Service, was the amount of time that Mr.
Bradley Patterson gave to the matter. He worked as hard on the final
arrangements and in getting the presentation ready for a successful
Cabinet presentation as anyone in the National Park Service. His
experience and knowledge, as a member of the Cabinet Secretariat,
of how to prepare presentations for an effective Cabinet meeting
caused him to be certain that the MISSION 66 presentation would be
successful. Mr. Sam Dodd of the Budget Bureau was responsible for
clearing Interior Department Budgets for consideration by the
Director of the Budget, Mr. Rowland R. Hughes, and the Assistant
Budget Director, Mr. Percival F. Brundage. Mr. Dodd proved very
sympathetic to the program and was able to help Mr. Patterson
secure Bureau of the Budget approval of the program's fiscal
provisions in advance of the Cabinet meeting. Mr. Patterson told the
writer he thought this to be a highly important accomplishment.
He felt that if the MISSION 66 program came before the Cabinet
and the President should turn to Mr. Hughes, as he often did in
such matters, and asked his opinion of it in connection with the
budget program, and the latter should express doubts about it or
outright opposition, then the progress in all probability would be
under a cloud in the President's eyes.
In working on this matter in the Bureau of the Budget, Mr. Dodd
found it desirable to remove from the MISSION 66 Plan the proposal
to obtain contractual authority for construction of buildings and
utilities. It was agreed that the President would be asked to approve
the program as a whole, but that he would not be asked to support a
given sum of money to carry out the 10-year program. He would be
asked to approve and recommend to the Congress specifically only the
first year's fiscal needs to launch the program. As would be
customary, the Bureau of the Budget would keep a close eye on the
progress of MISSION 66 from year to year, and its continued support
would depend on how the National Park Service executed the program
from year to year. It particularly intended to observe whether the
funds were being used to provide visitor service and accommodations
that justified the program.
The agenda for the January 27 Cabinet Meeting was published at
the White House on January 25. It listed four topics for Cabinet
consideration in the meeting to begin the next Friday at 9:00 a.m.
The first item was, "The National Parks MISSION 66 - CF-43/1." This
listed Secretary of the Interior McKay, Assistant Secretary D'Ewart,
and Mr. Wirth to make the presentation.
A MISSION 66 Cabinet paper entitled, "The National Parks - MISSION
66: Summary of the Program," had been prepared by the Staff with Mr.
Patterson's help and published on the Cabinet's blue "for consideration"
stationery on January 25, 1956. This paper was distributed by Mr.
Maxwell M. Rabb, Secretary of the Cabinet, to Cabinet members for
their consideration. It was a seven-page, legal length document.
The last two and a half pages summarized the 10-year program of
needs and proposed accomplishments. This document bore the identifying
number, CF-43/1. (1)
(1) Mr. Patterson gave the writer a set of all
official papers used in the Cabinet and at the White House bearing
on the MISSION 66 program. They have been used in writing this
section, together with the author's notes of his conversation with
Mr. Patterson at the White House June 25, 1956. The White House
Papers on MISSION 66 will, subject to the final approval of the
White House, be turned over to the Director for the NPS permanent
official file on this subject.
Mr. Wirth asked Mr. Garrison, Mr. Carnes, and Mr. Stagner to
accompany him to the Cabinet Meeting and assist in the arrangements
for the presentation. Mr. Stagner was proficient with the slide
and movie projectors and on him would fall the responsibility of
preventing any malfunction in this equipment during Mr. Wirth's
talk. Garrison, Carnes, and Stagner arrived at the Interior Building
at 8:15 a.m. on Friday the 27th, picked up the projector equipment,
spare bulbs, and proceeded to the White House. There, in the Cabinet
Room, they placed a rostrum with reading light in a corner for the
Director's use, placed the screen for the projections, and set up
the easels for two large charts. One of these showed the financing
table for the MISSION 66 program; the other gave a brief listing of
the principal legislative requirements needed to implement certain
phases of the plan. The projector was adjusted for focus and all
arrangement completed before Cabinet members began entering the room.
The Cabinet members began arriving in the room about 9:25 a.m.
and gathered in small groups. They stood around engaged in casual
conversation waiting for the President to enter. At this time one
member of the MISSION 66 Staff present in the room overheard Mr.
Stassen remark to Mr. Lodge, the Ambassador to the United Nations,
who had come down from New York for the Cabinet Meeting, "What is
this MISSION 606, Davy Crockett in Yellowstone?" The meeting was
to begin at 9:30. Punctually at that hour the door opened from the
President's study, and President Eisenhower entered the Cabinet
Room. He took his seat at the center of the Cabinet conference
table; the others then took their seats. (1)
(1) This account of most of the details of the
Cabinet meeting is based on a memorandum prepared for the writer
by Mr. Carnes of what he observed, and on a conversation by the
writer with Mr. Stagner. The latter apparently either made notes
at the time of the meeting or entered them in a pocket notebook
soon thereafter, since he referred to these notes frequently
during the conversation on this subject.
All persons normally attending the Cabinet meetings were
present except the Vice President and Secretary of State Dulles.
Mr. Herman Phleger, Legal Advisor for the State Department,
represented Mr. Dulles. Mr. Percival F. Brundage represented
Mr. Hughes for the Bureau of the Budget; and Mr. Victor E. Cooley,
Deputy Director, Office of Defense Mobilization, represented Mr.
Fleming. As already mentioned, Mr. Harold E. Stassen, Special
Assistant to the President for Disarmament Matters, and Mr.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., United States representative to the United
Nations, were present. The following White House and Cabinet
aids also were present: Bernard M. Shanley, Kevin McCann, Fred A.
Seaton, Maxwell M. Rabb, Bradley H. Patterson, Jr., Murray Snyder,
Howard Pyle, Gabriel Hauge, Bryce N. Harlow, Gerald D. Morgan,
an I. Jack Martin. (1)
(1) Based on list in Mr. Patterson's file.
After the group had seated itself at the table, the President
asked for a moment of silent prayer. The meeting then opened.
Before each Cabinet member was his personal black notebook containing
a copy of the agenda for the meeting with supporting papers on the
topics to be considered.
Secretary McKay opened the discussion on the MISSION 66 item.
He spoke for about three minutes on the public concern with present
conditions in the national parks, the increase in visitation that
was aggravating the problem, and the inadequacy of appropriations
to permit the National Park Service to take all the corrective
actions needed. He then asked Director Wirth to outline the existing
problems, and to set forth the program he propose to meet them.
Mr. Wirth explained the National Park Service situation, problems,
and proposed plan of action. Altogether he spoke for about 16 minutes.
His presentation as informal in a conversational tone. He used some
slides to illustrate crowded conditions in the parks. Following the
slides, three minutes of color movies taken in some of the larger
parks in June of the preceding summer illustrated the same theme.
After the film, Mr. Wirth referred to the large charts showing the
financing schedule and the legislative needs for the program he had
After Mr. Wirth had concluded, Secretary McKay called on Assistant
Secretary D'Ewart to comment on how the program might best be presented
to Congress, in the light of his 10 years' experience there. When Mr.
D'Ewart had finished his brief comments, Secretary McKay turned to the
President and asked, "Mr. President, and Gentlemen of the Cabinet,
are there any questions?"
President Eisenhower spoke up at once saying, "Yes, I have a
question. Why was not this request made back in 1953?"
Secretary McKay explained that appropriations had been increased
from $45 million to $62 million, but that the Department had not
been in a position to present this recommendation in 1953. There were
then a number of questions and comments from various members of the
Cabinet group. Discussion turned briefly on the minimum wage as it
affected park concessioners, and the possibility that the Departmental
rules for concessions needed to be reconsidered.
Then there was the query as to how nearly the revenues from park
fees matched park development and operating costs. The answer was
that they did not. Then came the comment from one of the Cabinet that
he had noticed the average annual cost of the MISSION 66 program
would be in the neighborhood of $80,000,000. Since 80,000,000 visits
were expected annually by 1966, according to the MISSION 66 study,
would not an average entrance fee of $1 for each of the visits pay
off the sum needed for the MISSION 66 program, he asked.
At this point President Eisenhower interjected that he did not
think it right to charge visitor fees to the historic and patriotic
shrines of the Nation, even though it might be justified in the larger
parks of the West. He then asked how much money was collected in park
entrance fees. Upon receiving this information Mr. Eisenhower said
that that sum of money did not mean anything. Why bother people with
collecting it? He mentioned Gettysburg National Military Park as an
example where an entrance fee was not practicable. There were too
many entrances to check. One of the Cabinet members commented that
personnel to watch the entrances and collect the fees would cost
salaries; utilities and quarter maintenance would add to the cost
of collecting fees; and, in the end, these costs would eat up all
that had been collected, and in some places might cost more besides.
In the Nation's historic shrines the President intimated that
fee-collecting might be a bagatelle which might not be worth the
cost and annoyance.
After a discussion of some twenty minutes, President Eisenhower
asked Secretary McKay if he could start the MISSION 66 program of
improvement for the parks at once. The Secretary answered that he
could "as soon as I get the money."
The President then said that he approved the MISSION 66
program as the basis for an expanded 10-year development of
the Nation's park and historic sites. He said that he would
sign a letter to the Congress recommending the program but
that Secretary McKay would be responsible for presenting and
supporting the program before the Congress. (1) Secretary
McKay offered the letter for signature "on the spot" at the
Cabinet table, but the President deferred this until later in
accordance with his custom of using the Cabinet meetings
exclusively for policy discussions and not for signature of
detailed, specific documents.
(1) Cabinet Paper - Privileged, RA - 43,
January 27, 1956. This is a record of action taken on the
items in the agenda of the Cabinet Meeting of January 27,
1956. CP - 43/1 covered the MISSION 66 item.
At the conclusion of the MISSION 66 discussion, Mr. Wirth
and his assistants from the National Park Service were asked
to wait in an adjoining room while the other items of the
agenda were discussed by the Cabinet. After the Cabinet
Meeting had terminated, they made a second presentation of
the MISSION 66 Program to the Departmental Cabinet Assistants
who regularly are called together after each Cabinet meeting
for an oral "debriefing" by Mr. Rabb and Mr. Patterson in
order to insure full and immediate staff follow-through on
Cabinet decisions. Mr. Wirth gave this second presentation
in the Cabinet Room at 11:30.
Mr. Patterson stated subsequently that the White House
Cabinet Secretariat considered the National Park Service
MISSION 66 one of the most effective agenda items ever
presented at a Cabinet meeting.
Those of the staff who had not gone to the Cabinet meeting
spent the time in desultory work and wondering how the thing was
going. Their first information came just after noon when Mr.
Wirth popped into the room and gave them a first-hand briefing
of the event.
The President Recommends MISSION 66 to Congress
Pursuant to the President's action in the Cabinet meeting on
January 27, the Cabinet Secretariat began the preparation of the
necessary documents to indicate to the Congress Executive approval
of the program. This task fell largely on Mr. Bradley Patterson.
The Cabinet Paper, which had been approved without change,
was re-circulated by Mr. Rabb on the same day, in the regular
format of an approved Cabinet Paper. Following this, Mr. Seaton,
Mr. Murray Snyder, and Mr. Rabb reviewed and cleared the implementing
letters which were drafted by Mr. Patterson for Secretary McKay's
and the President's signatures. There were three documents. The
first was a letter from Secretary McKay addressed to the President.
It was signed on February 1956, and formally transmitted to the President
the National Park Service MISSION 66 program and recommended
this undertaking to him for consideration and approval as part
of the Administration's resources conservation program. The second
and third documents were identical letters from the President to
the Vice President as President of the Senate and to the Speaker
of the House of Representatives, stating that he had asked the
Secretary of the Interior to present to the Congress the MISSION 66
program, and that he was much concerned with existing inadequacies
in the national parks it was designed to correct. The President
signed these letters on February 2. The concluding paragraph of
this letter to the presiding officers of the two Houses of Congress
I have requested the Secretary of the Interior to submit this
plan to the Congress and, to the extent that funds are available
therefor in the current fiscal year, to make an immediate beginning.
There will shortly be transmitted to the Congress an amendment of the
1957 Budget so that adequate provision may be made for carrying the
program forward without delay in the new fiscal year. (1)
(1) In a memorandum of January 30, 1956, Mr. Maxwell
M. Rabb transmitted drafts of the three letters to the Secretary of
the Interior for his review and clearance. The first letter vas a
revision of one prepared in the National Park Service and the
Department, dated January 13. Mr. Rabb's memorandum stated that the last
sentence of the paragraph quoted above was inserted at the request of
the Bureau of the Budget.
That same day, February 2, the White House made these letters
The President's letters to Congress on MISSION 66 did not
find that body unaware of the program. Several members of the Senate
and House had followed the progress of the MISSION 66 Study for several
months and had taken a very active interest in it. The Director had
not released to members of the Congress any of the plan's provisions prior
to its presentation to the President and the Cabinet, so they did not
know specifically what the program called for. But of its general
import they were fully aware. As a matter of fact, prior to the
Cabinet presentation, several members of Congress had of their own
volition started action in Congressional committees on bills to provide
the kind of assistance the MISSION 66 program spelled out. Thus, the
President's support of the program placed the Executive arm of the
government alongside the legislative in giving solid support by these
two coordinate branches of the government to the MISSION 66 program.
Seldom has say program administered by a Bureau of the Government for
public service received such solid, and virtually unanimous, support.
Congress translated this approval of the MISSION 66 program
into legislation which considerably increased the National Park Service
appropriation for fiscal year 1957 over that of 1956. The 1957 appropriation
for the 3ervice was $68,020,000. This was an increase of
$19,153,700 over the amount appropriated in the 1956 fiscal year.
The Building and Utilities amount alone was increased from $4,400,000
in the original budget estimates to $14,250,000, and an added $1,000,000
was allowed for acquisition of lands and water rights. The entire
10-year program of the MISSION 66 plan was estimated to cost $786,545,600.
It Is apparent that Mr. Bradley Patterson of the White House
Secretariat played an important, perhaps vital, role in the successful
presentation of MISSION 66 to the President and the Cabinet.
This engaging young man deserves a special word of praise in any
chronicle of the MISSION 66 program, even though it is as brief as
this one. A letter from Mr. Patterson to the Director on February 11, 1955,
answering one from the Director thanking him tor his help in obtaining
Administration support of the program, reflects some indication of
his personality and temperament, and the feeling he personally had
for the nation's great parks. In this letter Mr. Patterson said in
If there was a pinch of added enthusiasm, and a few extra
hours on my part, let it be in remembrance of some of those
days which have enriched my life beyond any measure.
From my bank account will never come an inheritance for
my children, but let there be bequeathed to them and to
their children to come, Lake Solitude, Camp Muir on Rainier,
a swim in Lake Tenaya, a stroll in Crescent Meadow, a campfire
at Elizabeth Lake. With these safely in trust for
them, Midas could not give them more."
The American Pioneer Dinner
February 8, 1956
Gettysburg National Military Park
(NPS Photo, HPC-000880)
With the MISSION 66 Report sent to press, and the work finished as
well on the popular booklet version of the MISSION 66 plan, the Staff
resumed the long interrupted work of reviewing the individual park
prospectuses, all of which had been received in the Director's office by
the end of 1955. While all of these were not in final form, Mr. Wirth
wanted to send to the parks quickly an approval notice or to indicate
that more work was needed. In order to accomplish this without delay he
initiated a series of meetings over the weekends, Saturdays and Sundays,
beginning on 14-15 January, 1956. Certain members of the MISSION 66
Staff, Mr. Garrison from the Steering Committee, and the Division chiefs
met with Mr. Wirth in this review. They had the benefit of many comments
in the folders already prepared by members of the Staff who had reviewed
the prospectuses, and of digests prepared by some of the Departmental
Trainees. In a series of five week-end meetings the Director gave a
hurried review to the prospectuses. On this basis, letters were sent to
the various park Superintendents advising them of action taken on the
During January 1956, as the White House Cabinet presentation was
being readied and work on the reports completed, the Director and certain
members of his staff had to give considerable attention to the
forthcoming American Pioneer Dinner, scheduled for the evening of
February 8 in the cafeteria dining room of the Interior Building. The
dinner was sponsored jointly by the Secretary of the Interior and the
American Automobile Association. The menu featured bison and elk meat
furnished for the occasion by the State of South Dakota, Mr. Russell E.
Singar, Executive Vice President of the American Automobile Association,
was to serve as Toastmaster on the occasion. Featured speakers were to be
the Honorable Clarence A. Davis, Under Secretary of the Interior,
representing Secretary McKay who was out of the city; Mr. Maxwell M.
Rabb, Secretary to the Cabinet; Mr. Edwin S. Moore, Secretary and
General Manager, California State Automobile Association; and Mr. Horace
M. Albright, Board Chairman, American Planning and Civic
After the dinner Mr. Wirth was to give a presentation of the MISSION
66 program to the dinner guests, and there was to be a showing of a film
entitled, "Adventure in the National Parks," prepared especially for the
occasion by Mr. Walt Disney. At the American Pioneer Dinner, Mr. Wirth
planned to make the first distribution of the attractive booklet
entitled, Our Heritage, intended to serve as a popular
presentation of the MISSION 66 plan.
Approximately sixty members of the Senate and House of
Representatives accepted invitations on behalf of themselves and their
wives to attend the dinner. All members of the American Planning and
Civic Association attending the Association's annual meeting then being
held in Washington were invited to the dinner. Officials of conservation
groups and other persons influential in that field also were invited.
Mr. Ronald F. Lee of the Director's staff served as principal liaison
in the National Park Service to work with the American Automobile
Association in making the arrangements and performing the many duties
incident to what proved to be a very pleasant and successful dinner
The approximately 350 guests at the American Pioneer Dinner
obviously enjoyed the occasion. The comments of each speaker referred
in varying degrees to the National Park Service MISSION 66 plan.
Mr. Rabb spoke in strong support of it for the Administration. The
American Automobile Association pledged its support. The presence
of so many Senators and Congressmen attested to a widespread
Congressional interest in the plan. At the conclusion of the dinner
a large number of the guests repaired to the Interior Department
Auditorium where Mr. Wirth, using color slides and film strip, spoke
on the MISSION 66 plan. The last item of the evening's program was
Walt Disney's special color movie for the occasion, a series of
sequences taken from "The Living Desert" and "The Vanishing Prairie,"
which had been filmed in the national parks. (1)
(1) A good account of the American Pioneer Dinner
will be found in Planning and Civic Comment, March 1956, pp. 8-11.
The New York Times, Sunday, February 12, 1956, Sec. X21, also carried
an excellent summary of the MISSION 66 plan and reference to the American
Pioneer Dinner, under the title "Saving The Park," written by William
Mr. Wirth viewed the American Pioneer Dinner as the culminating
event in his year-long campaign of launching the MISSION 66 program.
That night, although very tired from long hours of overwork and
tension, Mr. Wirth probably felt that greater success had marked his
efforts with the MISSION 66 idea than he had dreamed possible a year
A testimonial of his great services soon came to Mr. Wirth in
the form of the Interior Department's Citation For Distinguished
Service. Secretary McKay awarded him this in recognition of
outstanding service in promoting and administering the national
park system. But Mr. Wirth knew that although an excellent start had
been made toward this goal, nine more years of persevering work
loomed ahead before it would become an actuality. That part of the
text of the Department's Distinguished Service Award to Mr. Wirth,
March 12, 1956, relating to the MISSION 66 Plan follows:
Early in 1955, Mr. Wirth conceived and launched MISSION 66,
the comprehensive study of the National Park System and its
requirements. The program, developed over a period of years, is
intended to provide such development and staffing as will permit
the Service by 1966 to provide the maximum of benefit to the
American public while safeguarding its resources. For his foresight,
courage, and outstanding leadership, and his many contributions to
park conservation, the Department of the Interior bestows upon
Mr. Wirth its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.
The MISSION 66 Staff Disbanded
Grand Teton National Park
(NPS Photo, HPC-001669)
Now that the job for which it had been established was finished,
the original MISSION 66 Staff no longer had a reason for being.
Early in the summer of 1955, when the work of the Staff was just
beginning to assume shape, Mr. Wirth had told its members one day
that he thought he would establish a smaller staff on a permanent
basis, or at least on a ten-year basis, to watch over and help
implement the execution of the MISSION 66 Plan if it won
acceptance. On several occasions he mentioned this idea. The Staff
early came to expect, therefore, that the Director would, in fact,
establish such a group to replace the Study Staff. By February 1957,
with its work finished, the original staff had been in being just
about one year.
By this time Mr. Wirth had announced the composition of the
permanent MISSION 66 Staff whose duty would be to help keep the
program moving ahead of schedule, and to assist in the many
problems that were certain to arise with reference to it in the
field of public relations. To this staff Mr. Wirth named Mr. Carnes
as Chief, Mr. Stagner as Assistant Chief, and Mr. Coates, Mr.
Freeman, and Mr. Martinek as members. Of this group, Carnes,
Stagner, Coates, and Freeman had been members of the Study Staff.
Mr. Julius A. Martinek transferred from Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Park to become the final member of the permanent Staff.
Three members of the original Staff returned in February to
their former positions and permanent work; Harold Smith returned
to the Progress Branch, Jack Dodd returned to the Forestry Branch,
and Roy Appleman returned to the History Branch.
Some weeks later, in April 1956, the members of the original
Staff received the Departmental Unit Award for Meritorious
Service, citing the Staff of MISSION 66 National Park Service.
This award, signed by Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay,
reads as follows:
In recognition of outstanding accomplishments for a long-range
research and planning project which has as its goal the planning
of a National Park System of tomorrow.
The purpose of MISSION 66 is to review all operations and plans
of the National Park Service and to present a constructive and
sound program to bring the presently inadequate development for
operation, protection, and public use into harmony with the visitation
and use demands anticipated by 1966, the 50th anniversary of the
National Park Service. Director Conrad L. Wirth selected a staff
of seven highly qualified employees who possess vision and ability
to plan and do creative thinking. These men were instructed to disregard
limitations of precedent or custom in planning a National Park System
for tomorrow, keeping in mind only the basic objectives of the
Service to conserve scenic and historic objects and wildlife, and to
make the areas available for use and enjoyment without substantial
impairment. The imaginative and creative approach demonstrated by
the staff with respect to problems, which at times seemed
insurmountable, has been effective in stimulating a new era of
optimism and objective thinking for the entire Service personnel.
Without regard to personal inconvenience, staff members met with
field representatives and others whenever groups could convene
for the purpose of selling the objectives of MISSION 66 and for
re-examination of present-day operating methods. The staff established
a pattern for a new freedom in approach to a wide variety of
problems that has been inspirational and stimulating. MISSION 66
is not finished but it is well on its way. This is due in large
measure to the fine work and extraordinary devotion which this
task force displayed. Its work will continue and intensify in
years to come as the mission is crystallized into tangible
achievements. In recognition of outstanding accomplishments, the
Department of the Interior confers upon the staff of MISSION 66
its Unit Award for Meritorious Service.
Early in February 1956, Mr. Wirth replaced the original
Steering Committee with an Advisory Committee for the MISSION
66 Program, expecting that its membership would change
periodically. The Advisory Committee included membership from
the Washington, Regional, Design, and Park Offices. It held its
first meeting in the old MISSION 66 Staff room on February 13,
1956. Its members were the following:
Lemuel A. Garrison, Chairman, Chief, Branch of Conservation
and Protection, Washington Office
John E. Doerr, Chief, Natural History
Warren Hamilton, Asst. Supt., Yellowstone National Park
Herbert E. Kahler, Chief Historian, Washington Office
Thomas Vint, Chief, Division of Design and Construction, Washington Office
Herbert Maier, Assistant Regional Director, Region Four Office
Ray Vinton, Supt., Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Robert P. White, Supervising Engineer, Eastern Office, Division
of Design and Construction
J. Carlisle Crouch, Chief, Division of Operations, Region Five Office
Glen T. Bean, Supt., Chaco Canyon National Monument
In February, after the favorable reception of the MISSION 66
Report had become a firm fact, a meeting of some importance was
held in the Director's Conference Room with all members of the
original MISSION 66 Staff, the original Steering Committee, the
Director and Chiefs of Divisions, and certain members of the
Secretary's Office present. The occasion was to listen to comments
from Sam Dodd of the Budget Bureau on the MISSION 66 program. Mr.
Dodd had had a far larger part than most of those present realized
in bringing the MISSION 66 Program to a favorable reception within
the Administration. In the course of his comments he stated what
was already well known that he was soon retiring. As a friend
of long standing of the National Park Service he spoke of the pitfalls
and difficulties the Service must guard against over the long haul,
the ten-year period, if it were to see the program go on to a
successful conclusion. One must not take it for granted, he warned,
that the very successful start of the program would assure continued
strong support unless the program were carefully supervised and kept
to its purpose. There must be diligent care exercised that the program
provided public facilities and that the funds provided by the
Congress were not diverted to other purposes, no matter how well
justified that might be.
It was clear from his comments that representatives of the
Bureau of the Budget expected to watch carefully the progress
of the MISSION 66 program, and that if it did not live up to
its avowed and expressed purposes it might very well encounter
future strong criticism and opposition. If this happened, the
whole MISSION 66 program would be in jeopardy. Mr. Dodd's words
too on all the more weight because he spoke as a friend who was
trying to give good advice to those who would be responsible for
administering a program in which he believe and which he had
helped to get started. To the writer at least, remembering later
Mr. Dodd's words when he discussed the MISSION 66 subject with Mr.
Bradley Patterson of the White House Secretariat, it became clear
that the MISSION 66 10-year program was in fact a 10-year
Plan merely as to the central idea and purpose, but that its
implementation would be a yearly matter, each successive year's
budget for it depending in great part as how well the past year's
appropriation had been spent in accomplishing the avowed MISSION
But at least the MISSION 66 Plan was off to a flying start.
Its continuation and final completion rested with the future.
This was the rosy picture in February 1956.
Roy E. Appleman
January 7, 1958