31 Historic Significance

Cultural Landscape Recommendations: Park Headquarters at Munson Valley, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon


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Natural features of the Castle Crest Wildflower Trail. No scale.

“In order that visitors unable, through lack of time or physical strength, to visit all parts of the park may see and enjoy as many varieties as possible of the exquisite wild flowers that abound in out-of-the-way places, wildflower gardens have been constructed in several of the national parks.”(1) Visitor accessibility was the incentive behind construction of the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden east of the Administrative plaza in 1929. Chief naturalist Ansel Hall (1923-1930), of the NPS Research and Education Branch, may have directed the layout of the .4 mile loop trail and organized the presentation of interpretive information. The trail contained at least 29 interpretive stops through an area of forest, swamp, wet-meadow, and grassy slope featuring native wildflower display and an occasional glimpse of wildlife through the spring and summer seasons. Boy Scouts constructed the trail and attached aluminum identification labels to plant materials adjacent to the trail.(2) At an approximate construction cost of $160.00, the unpaved trail featured five log bridges and four rustic benches.

Park naturalist at the footpath access to the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden from the Administrative plaza, c.1930. (CRLA Park files)

Establishment of the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden in 1929 may have been part of an NPS interpretive program to provide accessible and educational nature trails. Other gardens developed at this time include a garden at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley and an area adjacent to the Museum and Administration building at Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Both garden designs used transplanted materials from other areas in the parks to exhibit a “profuse” array of native flowers and to attract wildlife. In contrast, park records indicate that plant materials of the Castle Crest garden were not imported but are indigenous to the site. Trail construction and interpretive devices constitute the only design elements of the site.

Research to-date suggests that the historical significance of the Castle Crest Trail is a designed landscape associated with NPS interpretive programs of the mid-1920s to mid-1930s, and the work of naturalist and forester Ansel F. Hall. Hall’s NPS career (c.1920-1938) included terms as senior naturalist and chief forester, and chief of the Field Division. His vision for environmental education in national parks combined a deep feeling for youth and nature. Hall’s “plans” were ready for implementation when the New Deal public works programs were formed. He brought private funds and public involvement to the parks as he developed the first museum association at Yosemite and organized Eagle Scout trips in park areas. Although further research is required to properly assess the historic contexts and significance of the Castle Crest Wildflower garden, the site possesses many of the design features and qualities from the original design. Additional field investigation is required to assess the site boundaries and the extent of historic materials present at the site.

Suggested research topics include: Boy Scouts of America; history of interpretation in the National Park Service; and the history of accessible design, general and NPS.