Secretary Of Interior Applauds Great Shenandoah National Park
BIG MEADOWS, VA, July 3--(AP)--Following is the text of the address of Secretary Harold L. Ickes at the dedication today of the Shenandoah National Park:
I like to take part in an occasion of this sort. The dedication of National Parks is one of the most palatable duties of the Secretary of the Interior.
It took the east a long time to come to the conclusion that there was something to the National Park idea for this section of the country. In fact, it came too late for the preservation of many outstanding natural areas. The Acadia National Park in Maine, Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey and Colonial historical National Park at Yorktown are already parts of the system. Shenandoah National Park, whose elevation to a National Park status we celebrate today, will make two National Parks for the Atlantic seacoast as distinguished from historical parks. To the southwest the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is coming on apace, and considerable progress has been made toward setting up a National Park in the Everglades of Florida. However, when the extent of the territory stretching along the Eastern Seaboard and Westward to the Mississippi river, is considered, even with the mammoth cave area voting "present" and Isle Royale in Michigan looking forward to the day in the near future when it too will take its place in the ranks, the number of National Parks in the section referred to is altogether too small.
Much as we would like to believe otherwise, I am afraid that we will have to admit that those aggressive pioneers who were our forefathers, in some respects were lacking in spiritual vision. If they ever thought of the matter at all, they would not have been able to convince themselves to the necessity of setting aside great areas of natural beauty and outdoor interest for the benefit of their great-grandchildren. Imagine with what scorn the rugged individualist who tilled the soil of these Eastern states would have regarded any proposal that the necessities of the future required a thoughtful present preservation of mountains and valleys and tumbling streams for the sake of future generations. To him there was, if anything, too much outdoors, too many tress, and not enough cultivatable farm land.
Consider what it would mean to the country today if that master exhibitionists, Niagara Falls, with a original surrounding of forests, had been set aside as a National Park before its beauty and charm and inspiration had been whittled down to a minimum by private enterprise that could see in one of the greatest wonders of nature in all the earth only an opportunity to make a present profit. All of this Eastern country originally possessed wonder expanses of lovely and outstanding landscape and interesting terrain which our forefathers, if they possessed that all-embracing, truly omniscient foresight with which some of us are wont to endow them, would have set aside to be inviolate for all time to the lumberman, the dam builder and the game hog.
The New England States even today possess several beautiful areas that should be dedicated to the service of the people. New York and Pennsylvania, with their charming mountains and lakes, would be more interesting and prosperous if earlier they had seen far enough ahead to do what was later done in the Western country. In this Southern Appalachian region, Virginia has taken the lead among the other Eastern States in setting up National Park areas. Yet, due to a lack of foresight and to a want of appreciation of the best use to which some of these areas that nature-lovers so much enjoy could be put, the East can now never hope to have such a system as is possible further West.
When the National Park Service, at the instance of private citizens and State officials, undertook to see whether some of the most interesting areas here in the East might not still be designated as National parks, difficulties were encountered that seemed to be insurmountable. Every parcel of land seemed to be in private ownership. The prices asked were high. It has been the policy of the government, in setting aside National park areas, to require that the land itself be given. This means that upon either the States or upon private citizens, or both, is thrown the burden of raising the money to acquire the land.
It was in 1926 that the Congress passed legislation authorizing this and the Great Smoky Mountains National park of North Carolina and Tennessee. It took almost ten years before this park was finally established last December. So many public-spirited individuals and associations contributed to make this possible that it is out of the question to mention them all. I want to tell you, however, that, after a drive for funds had brought in pledges of $1,200,000 by popular subscription, the General Assembly appropriated $1,000,000 to add to the fund. Among special donors who do not live in the commonwealth of Virginia, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave $165,631; Edsel Ford, $50,000; George A. Ball, $5,000; and W.T. Grant, $1,000. It is also fitting that credit be given to former President Hoover for deeding his beautiful camp on the Rapidan as a part of the Park for the use of his successors in the White House.
For my part, I wish that the Federal government might be more liberal than it has been in helping establish National Parks. The total cost to the United States government of all the lands that it has bought for the National Parks and monuments to date is $6,215,238. This is less that 5 cents per capita on the basis of our present population. The total Federal appropriations for the park roads and trails has been $75,942,992 or slightly less than 62 cents per capita. Certainly these figures do not connote wasteful extravagance on the part of the government.
I can see the danger of a policy of appropriating money for the purchase of lands. Once the government began to do this there would be enormous pressure from every State in the union for the establishment of at least one Park. We want no "pork barrel" recreation policy, no National Parks that are log-rolled through the halls of Congress. yet we require more parks if we are wisely to anticipate future needs and surely there is enough statesmanship in the country to set up safeguards against reckless or improvident expenditures. And may I put in a special plea at this point that, so far as possible, our Parks be permitted to retain their natural and wilderness characteristics, with only enough highways to make them reasonably accessible.
Certainly, there ought to be more National Parks East of the Mississippi river. Here are areas of the greatest congestion; here live millions of citizens who particularly would be benefited by the opportunities that our parks furnish. But here, by the same token, the greatest difficulties to the establishment of Parks present themselves. Practically all of the land is in private ownership, the extinguishment of which would be expensive, and many sections which 50 or 100 years ago would have qualified for designation as National Parks, as the result of private exploitation can no longer claim that rating.
As in so many other particulars so far as the national parks are concerned, this administration has set an outstanding record. President Roosevelt has given new vigor to the national park policy of the government. One of his first acts was to issue an executive order transferring to this service those national monuments and national military parks which were under the jurisdiction of other departments. I have always found the President sympathetic when I have approached him with suggestions that would improve or enlarge the park services of the government.
While, as I have said, as a general policy, the United States government does not appropriate funds for the purchase of lands for national parks, certain allocations were made for this purpose out of public works funds under the national industry recovery act of 1933. These allocations have totaled $790,300 or slightly more than half a cent per capita. Justification for these purchases lies in the necessity of providing work for CCC camps. Obviously, so far as possible, the government ought to employ these camps on its own property, and so it seemed an appropriate time to expend money for the enlargement of this park as well as great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, etc., and for the acquisition of the land embraced within the limits of Isle Royals National Park.
Out of these funds an appropriation also was made to extend the Skyline Drive of this park and to start the building of the magnificent parkway that is to connect this and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I may say that this parkway, when completed, will be an outstanding accomplishment. I doubt whether any drive anywhere will rival it.
Virginia is to congratulated upon the establishment of this Shenandoah National Park, which constitutes a fine wilderness area and comprises some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire Southern Appalachian range. It is both easy and pleasant to work with Virginia on park and historic sites matters. With Governor Peery I have had many pleasant discussions along these lines of mutual interest. The two able senator from this state, Mr. Glass and Mr. Byrd, have never failed to cooperate helpfully with the Department of the Interior. Nor have your representatives in the Congress been so far as a step behind your senators in the advancement of what seems to be a well matured plan to make Virginia the outstanding state in the whole union, so far as national parks, national monuments and historic sites are concerned. It was Congressman Bland who introduced in the House, concurrently with Senator Byrd in the Senate, the bill under which the Federal government is at last proceeding to investigate and designate historic sites throughout the country in the expectation that, in course of time, most, if not all of those that rate as such, will somehow be brought within its jurisdiction, there forever to be preserved and safeguarded for the benefit of future generations. I have also had many close and helpful contacts with Mr. Wilbur C. Hall, chairman of your state commission on conservation and development, as well as with his predecessor in office, Mr. William E. Carson. Both of these men have shown a deeply personal as well as an official interest in their duties.
I wish that every citizen of the United States might be able to visit the patriotic shrines with which Virginia abounds. On the basis of my own personal experience, I can say that no person brought up in the northern tradition can have, short of a personal visit, the slightest conception of the treasures of patriotic and historic interest that Virginia possesses. the grace, the charm and the culture of Virginia life, however fully it may be set forth on the printed page is, in fact, almost a closed book without such a contact. Mount Vernon, of course, has been visited by its millions. But in addition one must see Monticello, Ash lawn, Stratford, Carter's Grove, and that significant and wonderful contribution that John D. Rockefeller Jr., has made to his country through the restoration of Williamsburg, before he can begin even to envisage the manner of life of those early Virginians, to whose inspiration and leadership in such large measure we owe the independence of these United States.
To the citizens and officials of the State of Virginia I gladly pay my tribute for the leadership that they have so understandingly taken to preserve what is notable in the historic background of our country. Thanks to your efforts and to your vision, America is no longer a land without significant historical landmarks to point out its progress as a nation. This State is demonstrating that we have a great and honorable past upon which, with renewed confidence, we may proceed to build an even greater and more honorable future.
To me, the dedication of this beautiful Shenandoah Park, in this historic setting which is Virginia, is momentous chiefly because of the assurance that the occasion carries that this State proposes steadily to carry out its plan to acquire and maintain, either on its own behalf or in cooperation with the Federal government, areas and buildings that will link with indissoluble chains the America of the future with the best and most significant of the America of the past.