The State Park Movement in America: A Crictical Review

By Ney C. Landrum | Go to book overview

16
Looking to the Future
The View from One Observer’s Soapbox

Getting Back to Basics

America’s state park movement was essentially a product of the twentieth century. Although the seeds had been sown long before, the idea really took root with the scattered initiatives of the early 1900s. Brought together and given direction by the National Conference on State Parks in the 1920s, the emerging state park programs were then energized and molded by the federal aid programs of the 1930s. By midcentury the movement was well-established, and after a few decades it had achieved a degree of independence and stability that hinted of maturity. Much had been accomplished during that time, and the country was truly the better for it.

But the state parks today face another identity crisis. For all the good that they do, as a whole they seem to lack a clear sense of purpose and direction. The nationwide movement that sustained and guided them for so long has largely dissipated, no longer serving as a central, unifying force. In its stead are the fifty individual state park programs it helped beget, each with its own unique traditions and its own agenda for the future.

It would be inaccurate, of course, to imply that all of the state park programs had come from a common mold and were only now beginning to express their individuality. Clearly, that was not the case. In fact, some evolved so differently from the rest that they likely were never part of a national movement in the first place.

But the situation that now exists—with each state seeing state parks through its own specially colored lenses—makes it increasingly difficult to judge their overall effectiveness and to anticipate the course they might take in the years ahead. If state parks are to serve some consistent function in each state, and work

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