Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
LECTURES IN NATIONAL PARKS
By C. A. Harwell
The typical park visitor at Yosemite is the auto camper. The family has saved up enough to come for a few days or few weeks camping. The camp grounds, located along the banks of the river in just one section of the valley floor, during June, July and August, constitute a tent city with a population varying from one thousand to four thousand persons. The average stay is one week. The average social, economic or intellectual level of these campers is above that of the average outside the park. If that were not so they would not have surmounted the difficulties necessary to come.
The typical visitor determines the typical park audience. This makes several things necessary in considering audiences.
- Where audiences should be assembled.
- At what hours and how frequently they should be assembled at these places.
- Under whose auspices they should be assembled.
- General nature of assembly program.
- Total length of program.
- Physical comfort of audience.
- General arrangements of staging, lighting, and mechanics of program.
Most certainly programs should be arranged in a place or in places convenient to campers. In Yosemite last summer we established two “Camp Fire” locations to take care of five public camp grounds. We made them as central as possible so that all could easily walk to the camp fire bringing their own camp chairs. We wanted no problem of parking cars nor did we want the disturbance of running motors. We assembled these audiences each evening except Sunday at 8 o’clock, with rangers in general charge, and the park naturalist in charge of all that was said. The camp fire was lighted at about 7:30; community singing from 7:50 to 8:05; vaudeville type of program by campers 8:05 to 8:15; ranger naturalist lecture 8:15 to 8:45; program by campers 8:45 to 9:00; fire-fall closing program at 9:00.
Some logs were provided but in general the audience brought their own chairs. Electric lights made assembling and dispersal easier. A camp fire kept those warm who wanted.
Raised platforms 15′ x 20′ were constructed with improvised footlights. A curtain was in place for showing slides and wiring arranged for lantern.
These audiences were very friendly and appreciative of this service so we were happy to serve them.
Other audience situations are provided at company hotels and camps where we are allowed a few minutes on a more highly organized program of entertainment which uses paid talent. We appreciate these opportunities but feel our work goes over better in audience situations where we ourselves are in charge and as ranger naturalists and rangers act as hosts on the part of the government to our park visitors.
Of course there are other lectures given at museum and specially arranged places, but the above two types of audiences are our main problems.