Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area

By Kenneth J. Schoon | Go to book overview

6
THE PUSH FOR PARKS AND
DUNELAND DEVELOPMENT,
1890–1929

ONE OF THE EARLIEST GROUPS TO PROMOTE OUTDOOR RECREation was the Playground Association of America. President Theodore Roosevelt was the honorary chairman of this group and Chicago social worker Jane Addams was its vice president. Soon after the association held its second annual meeting in Chicago, a number of Chicago-area members who enjoyed the outdoors joined forces with several other local groups including the City Club, the Geographic Society of Chicago, the Audubon Society, the Art Institute Instructors, and the Women’s Outdoor Art League, and organized “Saturday afternoon walking trips.”

Recreational hiking was a new idea at the time, and when the organizers first used the word “hike,” they put it in quotation marks! And unlike many other health-oriented activities, its hikes were coed; both young men and women participated in and led them. The first organized walk, on April 18, 1908, was a three-mile trek near Willow Springs and was attended by 128 hikers.1 Five hikes were conducted that first year.

The group’s May 1911 circular used the name “Prairie Club” for the first time. The name is said to have been proposed by Jens Jensen, a widely known landscape architect and early president of the group.2 In early July 1908, with the South Shore Railroad line completed and a station at Tremont opened, a trip from Chicago to the Indiana Dunes was greatly simplified, and soon the Dunes became a favorite destination of the club.

In 1916, the National Park Service was established and Prairie Club member Stephen Mather was named its first director. At that time, all of the national parks were west of the Mississippi River and, not sur-

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