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



By Frank T. Been

In the preparation of this introduction to our discussion of national park standards I found that these standards were very clearly and concisely presented in the leaflet “National Park Standards” prepared by the Camp Fire Club of America, whose statements have been approved by clear-thinking men and by the outstanding outdoor organizations of this country. Additions to this publication would be superfluous. Discussion of this important topic can be advantageously based upon the statements set forth in this pamphlet.

May I suggest that we review these standards in order to determine the worthiness of them? If they meet with the approval of this conference, should we not request Mr. Hall to submit a statement of his approval as it was determined during discussion in this meeting? If these standards do not seem to us high enough, let us prepare another set to present to the Director for his approval.

Perhaps the standards as presented by the Camp Fire Club are too high to be effectively maintained. For instance, in the outline of standards the object of the national parks seems to be mainly scientific and educational. The original purpose of the national parks was to preserve areas in their natural state for the enjoyment of the American people. In spite of their valuable scientific and educational possibilities, they are generally accepted by the public as areas of recreation. Shall we interpret “recreation” to mean only physical exercise in the out-of-doors, or has it a broader significance?

We are building more and more roads. Are we defeating the park principles by so doing? We are expanding the privileges given to concessions and hotels in the parks. Is this expansion becoming objectionable to park visitors? Standard No. 7 states that “parks must be kept free from industrial use”. In the national parks large scale hotel developments are encouraged with the justification that they are necessary for the accommodation of the park visitors. If the parks are to be sanctuaries for inspiration and nature education, we may be obstructing their purpose by permitting large hotels because the people who patronize them are primarily pleasure seekers. If there were no hotels, these people might use the government campgrounds where they would be closely surrounded by the wonders of the park.

Being forced to live this close to Nature, they might be more readily affected by the wonder and beauty than if they were surrounded by bellboys, waitresses, lavishly appointed suites and lobbies, steam heat, etc. It may be maintained that the people using these places are a small percentage of the park visitors. We may grant that, but I feel that large hotels and busses are out of place in areas where nature is to be preserved, and the presence of these is benumbing to the people who appreciate nature, and they detract from our efforts to instill an appreciation of nature. Every day during this past summer I heard objections expressed concerning these concessions. If there must be accommodations maintained for train travelers, I contend that they should be conducted in the simplest manner possible because love and appreciation for nature cannot be inspired in ultra civilized surroundings.

As the parks are today conducted their outstanding attraction is “recreational”, in spite of the fact that park standards place recreation last in consideration. If they are to be preserved as natural areas, people must be attracted to them for their natural attractions and not for their recreational possibilities. To draw people to our parks we have stressed fine roads and comfortable hotels rather than the knowledge to be gained by visiting them. In short, our whole plan of administration thus far has been largely centered around recreational use, but if appreciation in Nature is to be the primary purpose, we may find it necessary to take drastic steps to change our methods.