Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929



By George L. Collins

Although the trend in our work seems to be always toward more effective means of giving people a fundamental understanding of the things they see in national parks, we have never doubted the worth of guiding and it still seems to be the most important means of imparting our ideas of national park significance.

Before there was a systematic guide organization in any of the national parks, they, as educational institutions, were generally accepted, perhaps, but were not wholly proved and consequently of little importance in the minds of a great percent of visitors. The inception of extended guide service, with its many personal contacts, was probably as much responsible as any other agency in creating in the public mind the more comprehensive attitude toward parks which we see flourishing in greater measure each season. The guide has become better qualified to keep his very important place right along as other developments have taken form.

It seems that other departments of the National Park Service work to develop physical means of getting people into national parks and have come to rely pretty much on the educational department, of which the guide is a member, to keep them there. In some cases this educational department is represented only by rangers or other workers who have many other things to do. But, when in the field, they act as guides and counselors whenever they can, and in so doing they assure us a great many more satisfied visitors to these parks where specific educational organizations are entirely things of the future. I picture the time when visitors will be so numerous that the problem of their entertainment and edification will constitute an emergency in the ranks of any individual park educational group, and it would seem that in such a case that the guide would be of the very greatest value for his ability to care for large groups at a time.

I believe that one of the greatest problems to us that has been brought about by physical development is suggested in the thought that it is being made easier for people to get into national parks and get right out again, than it is being made easy for them to understand once they do arrive — in other words it is much easier to build roads to care for a large number of people than it is to administer to their educational needs; and we are bound to be behind for a long while. But here again, guiding fills in the breach most admirably.

The guide should not fail to operate in regions of any park where the most complex features are present, that is, those features that require the most explanation and are most apt to be overlooked. Briefly, his scope and field should embody the business of personally directing visitors along the several routes of his park in a manner calculated to arouse the greatest and most wholesome interest in their surroundings according to the time they have to spend with him.

Intensity of Service Offered:

This brings up the interesting matter of a declaration of just how far guiding should go in park educational work, where the line of distinction is between guiding and ether methods, some of the mistakes made in guiding methods, etc. I have often wondered whether or not the majority of the public fellows the guide just because someone else is following him, and they think it is the thing to do, or whether it is an actual fact that the majority of visitors accompany guides because they really do feel benefited.


In the discussion following Mr. Collins’ paper it was agreed that the primary consideration in planning guided trips should be to interest the visitors in the natural features of the park and to give them a general sympathetic understanding of a natural phenomena. This principle is already understood by the park naturalists but it is frequently important to impress upon newly appointed ranger naturalists that their duty is not merely to disseminate scientific information.

It was agreed that it would be advisable to draft a concise statement, giving the primary objectives to be striven for in the guiding activities in the park; if this could be approved by the Director as a matter of policy then the objectives would be greatly clarified.


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