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Historical Perspectives

 

 

 

Site Features:

Recreational Vehicles: a comprehensive index of the websites of recreational vehicle manufacturers, mainly in North America, including current models, where applicable.

Haw Creek Out n' About: a blog – web log – intended as a companion to the Haw Creek Outdoors web site.

Photo Galleries: outdoor and travel related photos

Places: useful and/or interesting information for a few selected places

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Site News

October 25, 2007

The Washburn Yellowstone Expedition, No.1 by Walter Trumball (May 1871)

October 24, 2007

The Yellowstone (December 1871)
The Yellowstone National Park by John Muir (April 1898)

October 23, 2007

The Wonders of the Yellowstone - Second Article

October 20, 2007

class B motorhomes and vans: completely updated

October 19, 2007

Updates:
motorcoaches and class A motorhomes: completely updated.

New Images:

I've also added a new page called Site News Archive where older material from this column will be moved.  The page will serve as a record of changes to the site.

October 17, 2007 10:32 P.M

October 17, 2007 8:30 A.M.

New Yellowstone National Park material.

article:

Images:

 

Site News Archive

 

Attacks upon Public Parks.

The Century Magazine, (a popular quarterly); Volume 43, Issue 3; The Century Company; Jan 1892; New York

            THE fight to prevent the injury and impairment of public parks, large and small, appears to be a perpetual one. There is always springing up some new person or persons possessed with a craving, as absorbing as it is mysterious, to get into a park of some kind and do harm to it in one way or another. If the park be a small one in a great city, the hostile attack takes the form of a request to run a railway across or over a corner of it, or to be granted a section for a railway station or some other semi-public use. Plausible reasons are always advanced in support of such propositions, the chief of which usually is that the public convenience will be greatly enhanced by the incursion. A few years ago it was proposed with much seriousness to run an elevated railway across the Central Park, and it was claimed that the structure might be of such architectural beauty as to constitute an additional charm for the park. Again it was proposed to construct along the entire length of one side of the same park a speeding-track for horses which should be devoted to fast driving by the owners of blooded horses. In Boston and other cities the proposition is made anew every year to allow the city parks to be used as training- and parade-grounds for the militia.

            The attacks upon the great parks, those of the Adirondacks, the Yosemite, the Yellowstone, differ only in degree. Somebody wishes to run a railway into or through them, or to construct a highway across them, or to use portions of them for some kind of private enterprise of a profitable nature. The mere sight of so much property lying idle appears to be irritating to the utilitarian spirit of the age. Men wish to get at it and make it earn something for them. And the first excuse that they make is that their particular project will be a great public convenience. If it be a railway that they propose, they say it will not injure the park, but bring its beauties and delights within easy reach of thousands of people who otherwise would never be able to enjoy them. If they wish to cut down trees, they say they only desire to do so in order to improve the views, to "open vistas" from hotels and thus increase the enjoyment of visitors. "Opening vistas" has long been the favorite device of park desolators all the way from New York city to the Yosemite Valley, and is one of the most extreme and violent forms of park vandalism ever invented.

            All these attacks are open to the same objection, which is unanswerable, that they remove, in part if not entirely, the very qualities which are essential in a park. The prime essential of a park in a great city is that the noise and turmoil of the streets cease at its gates, and that within is quiet, an opportunity to enjoy nature in its cultivated aspect, and a certain freedom of action within limits which are prescribed only for the greatest good of the greatest number. Every respectably behaving person has as much freedom there as if he were in his own grounds. All is as free to him as it is to every one else. A railway across or over such a park, or a use of any part of it for a semi-public purpose, destroys both its quiet and its democratic equality, and its main charm has been taken away.

            In the case of a great park like the Adirondack, or the Yellowstone, or the Yosemite, the essential quality is that of a solitude, a wilderness, a place of undisturbed communion with nature in all her primitive beauty, simplicity, and grandeur. For such a solitude, vast domain and practically complete separation from the developments of civilization are indispensable. Run a railway into such a place, and it ceases at once to be a wilderness. Nature flees, never to be brought back again. With her go the wild game which attracted the huntsmen and made camp life, with all its restfulness and strength-giving qualities, possible.

            A few years ago the Adirondacks were a wilderness throughout almost their entire extent. To gain access to some of their most charming solitudes, it was necessary to ride forty or fifty miles by stages, an entire day being necessary to “get into the woods" after the railway journey had ended. In those days fish and deer and other game were plenty, and a camper could pass weeks and months without encountering more than a few casual signs of civilization. Then came the railways; two of them were allowed to penetrate the wilderness so far that a journey by rail could be made to points within an hour or two of the parts hitherto most inaccessible. What had been a wilderness became instantly a "summer resort." Cheap hotels and boarding-houses sprang up everywhere, and the woods were literally filled with visitors from all quarters. The whistle of the locomotives drove the deer into the deepest recesses of the forests, and the hordes of visitors, who had neither a genuine love of sport nor a respect for game laws, soon cleared the streams of fish. Now it is proposed to run a railway across and through the Adirondack region, opening up a large portion of it to settlement. This attack has been defeated temporarily, but it has not been abandoned. If it shall succeed ultimately, the Adirondack wilderness will soon be a thing of the past.

            For a long time the Yellowstone Park was threatened with a similar destruction, but the commendable action of the President, under authority of the last Congress, seems to have removed it for all time. Repeated attempts were made so to increase the size of the park as to have it include the watershed of all the streams which flow into the Yellowstone Lake, but legislation with this end in view was for a long time prevented by a railway lobby, in the interest of a road across one portion of the park, an invasion which would be made impossible by the proposed addition. On the last day of the session, however, Congress .passed an act authorizing the President to declare that the additional territory desired had been "withdrawn from entry" and should remain the property of the nation. He has so declared, and the danger of destruction by means of railways is safely and permanently passed. Congress ought next to provide the park with a superintendent, at a salary which would make it possible to obtain the best expert talent for the purpose.

            The condition of affairs in the Yosemite Valley during the past year has been such as to confirm the fears of lovers of that wonderland as to its future, and to show that the temperate warnings sounded in this magazine two years ago were not without solid basis of fact. To judge from the reports of credible and disinterested observers, the actual destruction of scenery has been, to a certain extent, curbed by the force of public criticism. Miles of fence, — the existence of which was denied,— have been taken down, and injurious schemes which were mooted in official quarters have apparently been abandoned. Yet there is nothing to show that the Commission has in any way changed its attitude toward the main criticism of its policy — the failure to intrust the supervision of improvements affecting the scenery to experts of proved capacity. On the contrary, moderate, respectful, and understated criticisms of the policy of these public servants have been met officially by abusive personalities and by a sweeping denial of evident facts, while at the same time the Commission was engaged in a so-called "improvement " of Mirror Lake, which, it is said, has resulted in depriving it of much of its exquisite sylvan beauty. The issue is clearly joined — whether or not the Yosemite shall be intrusted to hands of adequate skill and taste. In the face of the Commission's announced intention to cut down all the underbrush and trees of thirty years' growth in the valley, it would be superfluous to discuss what has already been done in the way of destructiveness. Part of it was highly objectionable in itself; part of it as symptomatic of a bad state of affairs in the Board of Control. We are far from saying, and have never said, that no trees should be cut in the valley, but we do maintain that the present Commission has demonstrated its incompetence to decide upon these and other important details of this character.

            Above and beyond the question of the landscape management of the valley lies another question —whether or not the Commission, which is the agent of the State as the trustee for the nation, has at any time lent its countenance to the building up in the Yosemite Valley of a financial monopoly, sustaining itself by obnoxious means. With the single desire that the valley shall be properly managed, we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the surest, if not the only, way to preserve this reservation for the highest public uses is to bring about its recession to the General Government, and thus to merge it into the management of the greater National Park which now surrounds it.

            Meantime, the thanks of all good citizens, and especially of all lovers of nature, are due to Secretary Noble for the wise, firm, and energetic manner in which he has conducted the affairs of the Yosemite National Park. While there may be honest differences of opinion as to the policy of military control, the protests against it of certain interests which have lived by preying upon the public domain are the strongest proof of the beneficent action of Congress in establishing this safeguard for the new reservation. To change somewhat the line of its boundaries by excluding some unparkable property which constitutes a fraction of it, would seem to be wise ; but this is a detail which the friends of the National Park will be the first to wish properly adjusted. The first year of Secretary Noble's management of the park shows not only its value in the preservation of the sources of water-supply, which will be more evident from year to year, but the great use to the public domain of excluding predatory sheepmen and lumbermen, whose complaints are conclusive evidence of the need of this reservation. Californians owe it to themselves and to their State, as well as to the nation, in whose interest they have undertaken to administer this trust, to see that the sordid interests of a few private parties connected with the operation of the valley are no longer permitted to impair its attractiveness or to stand in the way of its adequate conduct by the best talent that can be secured. It is idle to disguise the fact that in order to do this the better sentiment of California must make itself more vigorously felt. Naturally all the influence which can be exerted by those who have "something to make" out of the valley will be put forth during the present Congress to oppose a better state of affairs and to obtain a modification of the public policy of preserving the forests for the larger uses of the people.

            We misjudge the State of California if her citizens will sit idly by and see the sources, in part, of her greatness turned over to the tender mercies of private individuals. The preservation of her scenery, the conservation of her forests, and, most of all, the security of the water-supply of her valleys, ought to move the press and the people of the Golden State to prompt and vigorous protest against the flagrant and long-continued disregard of her interests.

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