Park and Recreation Structures
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WATER SPORTS AND HIKING, considering the latter as ranging from strolling at snail's pace and tramping to strenuous mountain climbing, undoubtedly include the more widespread types of active recreation in parks and recreational reserves throughout the country. Yet winter sports, horseback riding, archery, and other minor activities are increasingly in favor in many localities and regions.

Trail and mountain clubs have popularized hiking as an active sport along the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, in the Northeast, Middle West, Rocky Mountains, and along the Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico. Structures in facilitation of hiking are not various. Open-front lean-to shelters of Adirondack type and closed cabins, where winter use is expected, located easy tramping distances apart on blazed and well-marked trails, and supplemented with campstoves or picnic fireplaces, safe water supply, and simple latrines, make up the full complement. Suitable examples of these structural needs will be found under other sections of this publication.

In the northern and mountainous sections with cold climates, the winter sports of speed and figure skating, ice hockey, curling, and other ice games, ski running and ski jumping, snowshoeing, coasting, tobogganing, bobsledding, and sleighing, among others, are attracting more and more public interest each year. Before undertaking to meet this interest with special facilities, careful studies of snow and temperature conditions in each area of proposed development should be made to determine whether the probable amount of use of such facilities in a short season will warrant the expense of providing them. Except where the expense of importing snow or making artificial outdoor ice rinks can be justified by probable use, it will be feasible to provide these facilities only in areas where snow remains on the ground to a depth of at least six inches, and the temperature stays below freezing through more than 30 days—not necessarily consecutive—during the winter. In fortunate regions such as the West coast where it is possible to enjoy both summer and winter sports throughout the year, there will be other sports competing for interest and attention.

The increasing trek of winter sports enthusiasts by auto, "snow train", and "snow bus" to suitable terrain poses the question of the desirability of winter sports development in those parks, adequate in size and terrain, which are accessible to population centers. It is perhaps needless to say that facilities for winter use, where it is undertaken to provide them, should be coordinated as far as possible with the year-round recreational development of the region, and summer and winter use needs should be combined wherever feasible.

SPECIAL USE STRUCTURES for winter sports activities are necessary or often desirable for the following: tobogganing, coasting, ski jumping, and bob sledding.

Opportunities for coasting may be provided on flat playgrounds by the erection of wooden platforms with short runways of sufficient width to be safe and adequate.

Toboggan slides may be built with snow banks, but they are not completely safe and satisfactory without a specially constructed wooden chute which is slightly wider than a toboggan. This troughlike chute frequently starts from a trestle-built platform and extends down the slope and preferably across most of the level out-run. Toboggan slides may be built singly or in batteries.

Where slides are intensively used, it becomes necessary to time and control the take-off of the sleds and toboggans to avoid accidents. There will always be those who seek to pile thrill upon thrill by stunting—riding backwards or standing up—and the hazards this creates for the orthodox participants and the innocent bystanders, usually grouped at the foot of the slides, can only be checked by having a dispatcher in attendance.

So popular are the toboggan slides of one winter sports area in the Cook County Forest Preserve District that a battery of three slides is now being expanded to six slides, and the proper timing and release of the toboggans is a major consideration of the expansion program. Each slide will have a gate at its take-off. A control tower will be erected above these. Stationed in this tower, an attendant will have a clear view of all slides and toboggans awaiting take-off, and only when the run is clear and all occupants of a waiting toboggan are properly seated, will the gate which will release that toboggan be dropped by operation of a lever. Immediately the toboggan has got away, another shift of the lever will raise the gate to its shut position to hold the next toboggan in check until the way is clear.

A drop gate is preferable to an overhead gate because the latter would obstruct the dispatcher's view of the slide and create one more hazard for the tobogganers in the mishap of a gate dropping to a shut position before the toboggan had completely cleared. It has been pointed out that these gates must be fairly heavy and solid and the start of the runs made otherwise difficult of access to discourage youngsters with bicycles and roller skates from tempting fate by inventing another-seasonal use for this winter sports facility.

From Germany, Cook County has borrowed the idea of earthen slides. Down a hillside a shallow swale, 12 inches below the natural ground level at the center and 30 inches wide, is excavated. The dirt removed is mounded on either side, and the trough and mounds are then rounded and sodded. The construction is simple, being labor entirely with no materials to be purchased. Moreover, slides so constructed modify but little the natural appearance of an area, and in this consideration are in pointed contrast with wooden runs, especially such as must have trestlelike substructures for desired elevation. The latter can be not only disfiguring but very incongruous out of season, and any possible mental suggestion of January temperatures that these trestlelike structures might invoke in a sun-baked July is hardly compensatory.

The first earthen trough slides built in the Chicago metropolitan area were straight runs. Imagination soon got to work, and simple curves were introduced. These proved so popular that all slides subsequently constructed have banked curves—with variations. The engineer supervising maintenance in this area states that the thrills provided increase as the square of the variations—but has not to date submitted mathematical calculations to prove this interesting formula.

Supervision of the use of these earthen slides is necessary only on occasions of peak load, and accidents are rare. Maintenance is not a big item. If a snowfall is light or the snow melts away in sunny spots, this kind of slide can be quickly conditioned by the application of a few sprinkling cans of water on a cold night.

IN CONCENTRATED USE AREAS for downhill ski running, various means of uphill conveyance for skiers are becoming more and more common. They are called ski tows, upskis, or ski tramways. The common ski tow consists of an endless cable or rope which is operated, with a grooved drive wheel and with a counter weight to take up the slack, by a housed gasoline or electric motor. Hanging ropes, sometimes with detachable handles, are furnished the skiers who are spaced according to the load that can be carried. The return rope, descending the slope, is usually supported on a series of poles by means of pulleys fastened at an angle.

Ski jumping is a specialized form of the sport comparable to high diving. Although small, so-called natural jumps may be used, the safest course is over a specially constructed jump with scientifically accurate proportions between the in-run, take-off, upper transition curve, landing slope, and lower transition curve to the level out-run. A tower and runway, built of steel and wood penetrated with preservative, are usually necessary to provide a steep enough in-run and to give the jumpers a clear view of the take-off from the top.

Unfortunately, ski jump structures of our acquaintance are entirely lacking in park character. Moreover, since the facility must acknowledge factors which cannot bend in compromise with beauty, the prospect of ski jump structures pleasing in appearance beyond the graceful curve they offer for the eye's satisfaction is a remote one. Inasmuch as the design of ski jumps is admittedly a science and not an art, no jump being known which gestures in the direction of the latter, this publication, concerned largely with the consideration of park character, attempts no details of such structures in the plates presented. Doubtless the growth of interest in winter sports will lead eventually to the production of a monograph on facilitating structures, which will be a field for engineering rather than architectural exploration.

Because bobsledding requires a combination of extensive hilly terrain and special structural facilities, a bobsled run should be scientifically laid out according to engineering specifications on a carefully selected terrain. It should have control points at fairly frequent intervals and a telephone line for quick communication.

Areas intensively used for skating, ice games, skiing, and tobogganing should be provided with a heated shelter and refreshment building, sanitary facilities, supply of drinking water, hospital cot, emergency outfit with first aid kit, and either ski stretcher or toboggan. Where all major forms of winter sports may be enjoyed in the same area, a large winter sports lodge may be needed. Such a structure will have lounging room, kitchen, men's and women's toilet rooms, custodian's quarters or office, heated waxing room for skiers, cold room for racks and lockers, and connecting wooden runway to the ice for skaters. Benches, fireplaces, and possibly even picnic facilities may be added. Flood lighting for night use of ski practice slopes, skating rinks, and toboggan slides is usually desirable. Adequate space for the parking of automobiles, accessible over ploughed roads, should be provided near the various use facilities.

For intensive use areas limited to skating and ice games, a commodious warming shelter and refreshment building, located as close to the ice as possible and equipped with sanitary facilities, may be sufficient. Downhill skiing areas may be provided with a small skiers' lodge, having a lounging room, kitchen, and first aid room with sanitary facilities, or an adjacent latrine building, at a trail head easily accessible by automobile. Areas of this kind should at least have closed shelters at the bottom of all trails and also at the top of those over half a mile in length. Each shelter should be accompanied by sanitary facilities, emergency first aid outfits, and, if possible, a supply of drinking water.

The open fronts of Adirondack-type lean-to shelters may be boarded up, with door and window space provided, so that they will give protection from the winter winds for short stop-overs. For those who enjoy winter camping and mountaineering, a series of cabins may be so strategically located in remote areas as to offer convenient overnight shelter on cross country routes for touring skiers and snowshoers. Many foot and horse trails will provide suitable travel ways, except where steep gradients make necessary more winding alternate sections or bypasses for downhill skiing.

Since crowds will always congregate at ski meets, snow fests, winter frolics, and carnivals, adequate provision must be made for handling them on those special occasions. New facilities for winter sports use which are projected for the most suitable locations, based on demand, snow and ice conditions, terrain, exposure, and accessibility, should not be built until provision is made for their proper maintenance and supervision.

HORSEBACK RIDING is another activity which is gaining an enthusiastic following in parks. A stable for the riding horses is the primary structural facility required. It may be limited to suitable shelter for horses and to space for storing feed and equipment. Quarters for an attendant and an enclosure for exercising the mounts are often made part of it. It may even take on some of the aspects of a riding club with lounge, tack room, locker and dressing rooms, and toilet and shower facilities. In parks that offer extended or overnight trips on horseback, supplementing structural facilities may include shelters and corrals for horses and pack animals at objective points and along the trails. Hitching rails and posts, watering troughs, and mounting blocks may be called for in the intensive use areas.

In building structures to further the sport of riding, it is felt there need be no overstriving for park character if increased cost must result from so doing. There are two reasons to justify this viewpoint. First, appealing as the atmosphere of the stable may be to the horse lover, to the majority it is not an ornament, has no just claim to be treated as such, and both theoretically and actually is properly retired in location in much the same manner as other service buildings and facilities. Second, riding is a sport participated in by a small minority of the great field of park patrons and calls for a sober and sound economy in approach, akin to that prescribed for cabins on public areas.

ARCHERY, AS A GAME, has long been more or less in favor in parks, as elsewhere. The recent twist of the sport into hunting with bow and arrow seems to promise an increase in its popularity. Whether limited to competitive marksmanship over a trail course provided with various targets, or actually a sanctioned hunting of certain wildlife over a designated area, during the lawful hunting season, the only structural need in archery is perhaps a trail shelter. There is a hunters' shelter in Brown County State Park, Indiana, furnished with a fireplace and seats, and pegs for hanging up bows and other gear. It is enclosed on three sides. The open side faces an outdoor grill sized to flatter outrageously an archer's pride in marksmanship. Some are sure to believe that its vast expanse is scaled to the archer's lunch basket rather than his bag. If this is not so, then surely the ardent wildlife conservationists of the Hoosier State should view-with-alarm.

The plates which follow in illustration of miscellaneous sports structures appropriate to natural parks and recreation areas are not many. While the currently great popularity of these comparative newcomers to the field of park recreational offerings calls loudly for a comprehensive showing, the brief period of their acceptance in parks has produced few structures of merit. Furthermore, in many parks, particularly where the preservation of scenic values is the primary claim, conspicuous utilitarian structures are properly barred. It is a matter of regret that the showing is thus limited, and must await the completion of additional developments for a truly comprehensive presentation.

Wood Carving, Ski Lodge, Badger Pass, Yosemite National Park

This carved and painted plaque by Robert Boardman Howard represents the almost legendary father of modern skiing technique, Mathias Zdarski, an Austrian, who in the last part of the nineteenth century evolved the use of ski poles and turning. This development brought to skiing the controlled grace of movement of the modern technique.

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Last Updated: 04-May-2012