EARLY PARK AND RECREATION DESIGN INFLUENCES
The emphasis on harmonious design of the built
environment on the national forests had its
roots in the Public Park Movement of the mid-
19th century. During the Industrial Revolution
and its aftermath, social thinkers became
concerned over crowded and unsanitary cities
and the perceived loss of connection for the
average citizen to the natural world. That led
to efforts to set aside or create natural areas
in urban areas, such as New York’s Central Park
(1853) and the metropolitan park system for
Minneapolis-St. Paul (1872-1895).
At the same time, national interest was growing
to conserve the dramatic landscapes of the
West for tourism. As a result, large natural areas
such as the Yosemite Valley (first as a California
State park in 1864, later as a national park in
1890), the Adirondack Forest Preserve (1885),
and Yellowstone (1872) were reserved as “public
parks or pleasuring grounds for the benefit and
enjoyment of the people” (Carr, 1998, p. 11).
The urban parks of that era emphasized
maintaining “picturesque” landscapes for “passive”
use such as picnicking or touring to enjoy
the scenery. The built environment was often
minimal, consisting primarily of curvilinear
carriage drives and winding walking paths
from which to enjoy the views of the landscape.
Bridges and other structures were kept low
and horizontal in form, often using rock from
the immediate area. Rather than creating facilities
for specific uses, large meadows and open spaces
were provided to support an array of activities.
This philosophy prevailed when the Forest
Service began permitting construction of
summer homes, resorts, lodges, and boathouses
in the early 20th century. The Forest Service
constructed its own ranger stations, roads,
and trails for administrative purposes, while
private interests designed and built recreation
facilities under Forest Service permits and
regulations. Most of these early facilities fit
into the landscape quite well (Tweed, 1978, p. 2).
However, public recreational facilities remained
rare even though recreation use was growing
rapidly. As described in an early report, rangers
tried to fill this gap in some cases:
“Forest rangers took time to clear inflammable
material from around heavily used camp spots
and to build crude rock fireplaces. They erected
toilets and dug garbage pits whenever materials
could be obtained .… Tables, toilets, and garbage
pit covers were made from lumber scraps and
wooden boxes, and crude signs were painted
and displayed on rough-hewn shakes. Many of
these…improvements were raw looking and
some of them were clearly out of place in the
forest environment, but they filled a real need”
(Tweed, 1978, p. 3).
Public recreation facilities on a national forest
were first truly planned and developed in 1916.
This occurred in the Columbia Gorge Park division
of the Oregon National Forest (later Mt. Hood
National Forest and now within the Columbia
River Gorge National Scenic Area) (Tweed, 1978).
The campground and ranger station at Eagle
Creek included an entrance station, restrooms,
tables, fireplaces, and a trail designed in the
Arts and Crafts architectural style of the day.
The Arts and Crafts movement favored the beauty
and honesty of traditional handcraftsmanship
and the use of natural building materials
Like the earlier Public Park movement, the Arts
and Crafts movement arose out of concern over
the effects of the advancing Industrial Age.
Proponents believed that mass production
threatened people’s appreciation of natural
materials and craftsmanship. The use of natural
materials, as well as an emphasis on simplicity in
form, line, and function, made Arts and Crafts
architecture fit well in natural settings. This
influence was clearly visible at Eagle Creek and
was a major influence in the evolving “rustic” style
of architecture in natural areas (Tweed, 1978).
Arts and Crafts included the prairie-style
architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, who believed
that a building should appear to grow organically
from its site. Prairie-style roofs were low-pitched,
usually hipped, and had wide, overhanging eaves
and low porches and terraces. Architectural
details emphasized horizontal lines as well.
The style echoed the context of the landscape.
Its long, low character reflected the horizontal
line of America’s prairies.