The State Park Movement in America: A Crictical Review

By Ney C. Landrum | Go to book overview

7
Dubious Progress
Assessing the Relevance of the National
Conference on State Parks

Looking for Direction

Almost from the start, the precise purpose of the National Conference on State Parks had been unclear. In calling the first conference in 1921, Stephen Mather himself seemed to know exactly what he wanted to accomplish, but others, such as Iowa’s Edgar Harlan, were not so sure. Reports of that first meeting hint at apparent misconceptions, differences of opinion, conflicting motives, and, at times, possibly even general confusion about what was going on. Given the hasty preparations for the Des Moines conference, however, and the limited understanding of the subject matter by most of the participants, one might excuse some lack of unity and consensus on that occasion. But over the following decade or more the NCSP—even as it developed as a structured, permanent organization—was still seeking a coherent sense of purpose that would guide its program along a consistent path.

A large part of the problem no doubt lay in the patchwork “object statement” that obviously had been thrown together to placate, if not please, all of the diverse interests. For one thing, its stated purposes were far too ambitious for the infant organization to address with any hope of overall success. For another, possibly more troublesome, it also provided for actions in support of potentially competing interests: federal versus state (or county or city) government levels; recreational versus scientific uses; public versus private venues; and management programs for parks versus forests (or preserves)—and quite likely a few others merely implicit therein. Nowhere, however, either by word or implication, did it

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