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

(Carley, 1994).

 

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.

 

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