Carved over the entrance of the State Office Building in Sacramento, capital of the state of California, are the challenging words, "Bring Me Men to Match My Mountains." Inside this building a small group of men, up to now well known only to their fellow professionals in the state conservation services, have been at work for three years on a monumental project. The completion this week of their report not only matches them in stature with the Sierra Nevada, but has as its purpose the preservation—and use—of those very mountains, and all of California's land, lakes, forests and ocean. DeWitt Nelson and Elmer Aldrich, chairman and executive officer respectively of the California Public Outdoor Recreation Plan Committee, placed the 80-page report on the desk of Governor Edmund (Pat) Brown at 10:30 a.m. Monday. It may come to be considered one of the most valuable documents in the history of American conservation. For this report makes California the only state in the Union to have a general plan for the conservation and development of its land to meet the proved sporting and recreational needs of its residents, now and in the decades to come.
The California plan is of national importance because it demonstrates factually that, for the country's economy and welfare, outdoor recreation is as vital a resource of public land as timber, forage and water, and today must be given its just due. The California plan documents the new discipline of social conservation—it places people first, seeks to reconcile their recreational needs with other land uses and offers a methodical approach and bold over-all resolution to the extremely serious problems of exploding population and the resulting pressure on open land.
It is fitting that California should pioneer on this frontier of social conservation. Californians are venturesome, outdoors-minded people with an effervescent confidence in their own future. They live in a state of magnificently varied natural beauty, ranging from the great beaches of the Pacific seashores across desert landscapes to the towering mountains of the Sierra Nevada. And nowhere else in the country are the immediate pressures of rapid population growth and galloping urbanization so acute.
The committee which produced the plan was created by a farsighted piece of legislation in 1957. It was formed by the chiefs of eight state departments, including natural resources, education and finance, to solve a problem that concerned all of them. The legislature assigned to it the task of finding out how Californians spend their time outdoors, what land is available for their enjoyment and how future needs can best be met. Elmer Aldrich, a direct, incisive Californian who has spent 12 of his 45 years in state conservation services, took charge of a staff of able, experienced men and welded them into a singularly effective and dedicated team. "What we have accomplished—good or bad—we have done together," says Aldrich. It is abundantly clear that their three years of hard work have paid off in some real accomplishment.
As a first step the committee took a hard look at California's future. Most of the state's 15 million population, they found, is concentrated today in or near Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose and other cities. "Perhaps our most startling forecast," says Planner J. Kenneth Decker, "is that within 20 years California's population will double to 30 million and that this great population growth will occur in or near the present population centers." Almost as significant is the drastic change that is taking place within California's age groups: the 6-to-17-year-olds are at present increasing more rapidly than any other group. Thus by 1980 California must absorb within its present physical limits a whole new state equal to its present population, made up primarily of families with school-age children who will live where land is in short supply and population pressures are already most acute.
The committee's mandate to provide for this huge, city-based population the best possible outdoor life was obviously a challenge. It was met by using, and sometimes elaborating on, every sound applicable concept in social conservation.
The most fundamental concept is of course, that the subject of social conservation is people, in this case, hunters, fishermen, campers, boaters, sightseers—all those seeking the pleasures of the outdoors.
But outdoor sports and recreation are among several, and sometimes mutually antagonistic, ways of using land. In principle, recreation has for many years been considered a natural resource. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, a federal law which created the multiple-use concept of public land, ordered that all land in the public domain be available to hunters and fishermen. In the past, however, the sporting use of land has often been the raggedy stepchild of grazing, lumber, oil and mining interests.
Today recreation is a "cash crop"—it has become big business in its own right. In 1959 not less than $4 billion to $5 billion was spent on outdoor recreation, including travel. For some regions of the country, outdoor recreation is the mainstay of their economy. Each year the recreational use of land is becoming of greater economic importance.
The demands on U.S. land already are close to overwhelming. Huge and often magnificently landscaped tracts are needed to provide the watersheds on which cities hundreds of miles away depend for water. The same tracts are needed to satisfy the great demand for lumber and must also serve as grazing land. Recreation can never have exclusive claim to multiple-use land unless the land is of great scenic importance or the recreation value is considered by the public to be greater than other monetary uses. But the time has passed when recreation's claim on public land could be dismissed lightly.
The California plan holds wisely that the sporting use of land must be integrated wherever possible with commercial uses. To this end a series of multiple-use planning regions has been drawn up for the whole state which takes into account the areas' physiography and transportation facilities as well as trade and recreation characteristics.
The demands for timber, forage, water, oil and minerals have been evaluated statistically over decades by assiduous commercial suppliers and cooperating governmental bureaus. But what is the demand for recreation? That it is high now and will rise sharply over the years to come no one has ever doubted. But how high is it likely to become?
Planner George Vincent found, first of all, that in California the automobile is the extra member of the family. In 1940 there were 310 cars per 1,000 people; there were 343 in 1958, and by 1980 there will be 420. Each car is used over 10,000 miles a year, and in leisure-oriented California social and recreational travel accounts for almost half of all travel.
That uniquely American phenomenon, the family which on a weekend afternoon jumps into the car and just drives for one or two hours, turned out to be the single largest segment of the outdoor public. In two statewide surveys Planner William Yeomans found that "sightseeing and study" ranked either first or second in recreational interests. Generally families drive about 35 miles from home, aiming for a scenic area such as an overlook on the Angeles Crest Highway, a historic place such as a Spanish mission, or even a man-made marvel such as a bridge or dam. But even these modest recreational demands of the majority of the population will not be easy to meet in the future. Competition from housing subdivisions, agriculture and industry, and the problem of increasing traffic, will drastically reduce such sightseeing opportunities. The California plan therefore offers detailed prescriptions which range from the preservation of scenic landscapes to the establishment of educational markers near historic sites within a 40-mile radius of the cities. It also endorses a scenic-recreational highway system with wayside facilities for rest, picnicking and camping. Such a system already is being sponsored by State Senator Fred Farr of Monterey, a legislator who is responsible for much of California's social conservation pioneering.
In a state where the climate and scenery naturally draw people into the outdoors it was to be expected that interest in sports and active leisure would loom large. Nevertheless, it came as a surprise to the planners just how footloose and active their constituents were and what great hopes they had for the future.
To make the best possible use of available land, the California planners employed a number of well-constructed surveys. Virtually every previous survey in recreation has been limited to "on-site" users: the questions were asked of people actually using a camping ground or reservoir. The Californians, with a great deal of volunteer help, did all of that, but in addition they went into peoples' homes and asked them how they spent their outdoor leisure. From these very careful studies the planners were able to analyze the behavior characteristics of different sporting groups. One of the most important planning concepts used involved the distance people are willing to travel to participate and how long they stay. Hunting and fishing are often lumped together, almost as if they represented a single outdoor interest. But the Californians found that most fishermen do not travel more than 30 miles from their homes, whereas hunters are more willing to go 100 to 300 miles for their sport. Fishermen, therefore, should have first claim on land close to the cities which could be developed for either hunting or fishing but can accommodate only one. The behavior characteristics of 13 recreation activities, the plan's recommendation for each, and the user-resource-distance concept are summarized graphically in the box on page 71. Here are some of the planners' discoveries and prognostications for a few of the "major" outdoor sports.
Boating is gaining so rapidly as a sport that if the present trend continues by 1980 every Californian will own five boats: 30 million Californians, probably; 150 million boats—well, hardly. Planner Elmo W. Huffman, the civil engineer who surveyed this sport, believes a realistic forecast would be a gain of about 800,000 boats over the 1959 total of 300,000. Even so, future skippers will be in trouble unless far more effective use can be made of existing lakes and reservoirs and unless the present sharp conflicts between boating and other water uses can be reconciled. If the revolutionary new jet boats (SI, Oct. 26) catch on, Huffman feels that by 1980 "we may be using dry lake beds, flooded only sufficiently to keep the dust down."
WINTER ACTIVITIES. "During the 1957-58 season nearly 5 million visits were made to California's ski and snow-play areas," reports Russell Porter, the planner who snowplowed through the drifts of winter statistics. It came as a surprise to Porter and his colleagues that skiers account for only one-fifth of these visits. What the planners labeled "snow players"—people who come for the sledding and just plain sightseeing—make up the other four-fifths. Important for the future development of snow areas is Porter's demonstration that the "snow players" are nearly all city dwellers on a day's outing, whereas the skiers come from afar and many of them stay overnight. This demonstrates an extremely important concept in social conservation planning: the need for development of relatively low-grade recreation areas near the cities which will take pressure off scenic or spectacularly developed areas. Given romping room near the cities, the snow players eager only for a little fresh air would stay out of the skiers' way.
California at present has more than 70 recognized ski areas, ranging from single rope-tow operations to luxurious resorts. For the current crop of skiers these facilities are ample, except, ironically, for a shortage of parking space. But by 1980 there will be heavy deficiencies, especially in the Southern Sierra Nevada and South Coastal Mountains. To offset this, the plan calls for the development of the upper slopes of present ski resorts and the government's encouragement of private capital in the development of new areas (most suitable ski sites are within the U.S. national forest system). Where private investment seems unlikely, the state itself is urged to develop ski facilities on suitable state and federal lands.
GOLF. "Every fourth adult in this room," Planner Michael Kiely recently told an audience, "has golfed at least once in his lifetime." But in California golf is rapidly becoming a young man's game: one out of every eight young people "has become devoted to the game and plays at least once a month." To urbanites (golfers travel only five to six miles from the city), California offers 304 courses—72 government-owned, 102 public and 130 private clubs. Kiely estimates that golfers need one 18-hole course for each population cluster of 25,000 people. By 1980, if no additional courses are built, there will be a long wait at the tees. California will have only one course for each 100,000 people. The prospects could be even dimmer, however, because urbanization taxes the private and public clubs out of existence.
Golf clubs all over the country are primary targets for adjoining housing developments, which lean heavily on their scenic charm and prestige. Shortsighted tax assessors often dun these clubs almost as heavily as the surrounding built-up areas, claiming their land has risen in market value. Clubs have had to sell out, and their courses have been bulldozed and built over. The result is that the value of the older development has dropped and eventually so will its tax base. An intelligent county administration would apply to golf and other land-holding clubs a system similar to the lumber industry's stumpage tax. This allows timber owners a very low tax on standing trees and demands a fat one when they harvest their timber. A golf course should be heavily taxed only when and if it sells out to a developer. As Michael Kiely put it: "It has values that lift the tone of the community."
SWIMMING. Nearly 90% of California's population, over 13 million people, live within 100 miles of the Pacific Coast, yet only one-fourth of its beaches are publicly owned, and most of these beaches can be reached only by crossing private property. The demand by 1980 will be three times greater than the presently developed beach land. Creating public access across private land to public beaches, lakes and forests and developing the necessary parking facilities are two very important factors in opening up additional recreational land. But the pressures on beach land are so great that Aldrich believes "the placement of the entire coastline of California in public ownership is indicated in the state, if not the national interest."
HUNTING. Planner John B. Cowan found the most sought-after game are deer and pheasant. Within 20 years, 800,000 hunters, twice as many as today, will be bringing in a maximum foreseeable harvest of 250,000 deer. But a maximum harvest cannot be counted on without better access to hunting areas, less crowding of hunters, properly regulated taking of either-sex game and improved management of the deer herd.
The total annual pheasant bag is now about 350,000 wild birds, of which 70% are taken during the first three days of the season. City hunters travel 100 to 400 miles, and by 1980 nearly half a million of them may be gunning for what birds are available.
Access to public land is a major problem. Much of the public domain in the western states consists of large and small pockets ringed by private or leased land. Edward Woozley, Director of the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that administers the public domain, is currently stumping the western states in a highly persuasive attempt to open up this public land to hunters and fishermen. He is doing this by clearly posting public land and "swapping" land rights to gain access. If need be, he can act through condemnation.
FISHING. "California has 15,000 miles of streams, 8,000 lakes, 900 reservoirs, 10,000 farm ponds and 1,200 miles of coastline," proudly reports Cowan. These great resources are used by about 2 million fishermen today, a number that will double within 20 years. The fish forecast: enough black bass, catfish and pan fishes but a short supply of trout, stripers, steelhead and salmon. The supply of salt-water fish is promising, but here again access to the ocean is a problem. John Cowan's recommendations range from the construction of access roads to the provision of launching ramps, piers and breakwaters.
RIDING AND HIKING. Recreation Planner Donald Lawyer's study of the number of riders and available trails gives some indication of the thoroughness of the California plan's surveys. Lawyer enlisted the help of some 11,000 equestrians who volunteered 7,900 man-hours of work. Their census shows a quarter of a million privately owned horses and another 17,000 rental horses. The state offers almost 18,000 miles of riding and hiking trails. This gives California almost as many horses as boats and more miles of trails than state highways. Unfortunately, most trails are too far away from the cities to be used fully. In far northern California the annual use is only 9 to 15 man-days per mile, whereas in the Los Angeles basin and neighboring mountains the annual use is about 6,900 man-days per mile. The need for additional trails is therefore clearly near the cities.
It is one of the fundamentals of Elmer Aldrich's thinking that "recreation should be provided near the community because of the needs of the low-mobility groups"—i.e. the snow players, sightseers, golfers and picnickers. Other authorities are in complete agreement with Aldrich.
"Quite ordinary land can be made into attractive and useful recreation land," says Marion Clawson, director of studies in land use and management of Resources for the Future, Inc. "Relatively low-grade farm and forest land can be converted into quite respectable park areas, given a little work and time. Rolling hills, especially if tree-covered, with intermingled [artificial] lakes may be less inspirational than the Grand Tetons, but they will satisfy many users at least most of the time."
Past conservation thinking has been on the whole too grandiose. Too many conservationists, nothing less than solitary communion with nature in magnificent landscapes was really acceptable. But the desires of a majority of people are much more humble. A day's outing in the car, a look at a "pretty" view, a picnic and a little horsing around on a lake or in the snow—this satisfies their needs admirably.
Under the California plan, the cities themselves must assume primary responsibility for the recreation of their residents, even if the facilities are a considerable distance from the city. For example, the city of San Diego would be responsible for the upkeep of a camp well outside city limits if San Diego people were its almost exclusive users.
A most important recommendation of the Public Outdoor Recreation Plan Group is the creation of a system of Inter-County Regional Agencies. These would essentially be recreation regions, with the authority to tax their residents, directly or indirectly. It will be the responsibility of these Inter-County Regional Agencies to provide opportunities for the enjoyment of the outdoors in Zone 2 (see box page 71)—which means such sporting opportunities as fishing, swimming, boating and riding, all within an hour's drive of the cities.
To this new regional government belongs the vital responsibility of green-belt zoning and the preservation of open spaces. This, of course, is all-important in curbing urban sprawl, the plague of prosperity, from which California suffers almost as sorely as the more industrialized East Coast. Here California already has made a start through the judicious use of zoning, subdivision planning and "easements."
"With an easement," explains William H. Whyte Jr., the guiding editor of The Exploding Metropolis, "instead of buying a man's property, the way land is bought for parks, the community buys only a right in the property. The property still belongs to the owner, but he cannot sell it for subdivision."
THE VISITING PROBLEM
The bright future for weekend and vacation sports—such as skiing, fishing, hunting and major sightseeing trips—lies in such federal landholding agencies as the national parks and forests, the public domain and the land administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. These agencies are eager to cooperate, but one of the great drains on their budgets is supplying day-use recreation to local people. The primary concern of these "great agencies" should be to accommodate people who "stay" rather than "visit." Dr. Marion Clawson fears that "many visitors to many national parks now regard them as little more than glorified parkways." Clawson argues that the national parks, which already are unbelievably overcrowded, should adapt their lands to provide a richer, more emotional and intellectual experience rather than hustle visitors along newer and better roads.
The final, and a most important, role in the conservation of land and water belongs to the state. It should be the principal coordinator at all levels of government. In California, as in all other states, the responsibility for the conservation and development of the land is now divided among a multiplicity of departments, boards, agencies, counties, cities and districts.
California has at least 15 major state agencies directly or indirectly concerned with recreation. There are 72 boards and commissions to advise them. This managerial superstructure serves 58 counties, 350 cities and 2,800 districts, all of whom have tax powers and therefore opinions of their own. The need is obvious for one state agency to coordinate and help plan for all outdoor recreation facilities and services.
As supplier, the California plan proposes that the state concern itself with providing overnight, weekend and vacation facilities where these are most needed or where the land is at its best. Lastly, it advocates a program of acquiring land which can be earmarked for future use. After all, a master plan is valueless if the land it seeks to put to use is already ruined.
This is the heart of California's plan for its future. It is sound, hard-headed social conservation planning. Within the next months the committee will present to the legislature a follow-up study which details the financial and administrative moves necessary to translate the plan into practical accomplishments. Legislative approval is, of course, needed for almost every major provision of the plan, and in some cases it may be hard to get. But the chances of favorable action look good—and so does the future of California and social conservation.
The California plan is an outstanding achievement within social conservation because it takes as its point of departure the needs of people. On the whole, conservation thinking of the past has been based on the preservation of nature for its own sake. There have, however, been exceptions, and the most notable are the conservation activities of the Rockefeller family, especially those of John D. Rockefeller Jr., which go back some 60 years. The long roster of his achievements—the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, the acquisition of Acadia National Park and Jackson Hole Preserve and his great contributions to virtually every national park in the country—is in itself enormously impressive.
When he was asked some time ago by a longtime associate for an estimate of what he had spent on the conservation of scenic and historic America, "Mr. Junior," as he is known to his close associates, replied that he had kept no accounts, but he thought it might be around $100 million. If Rockefeller seemed casual about his expenditures, in every other detail he has been meticulous. His has not been the scattered largess of a very rich man but the considered expression of a lifetime of pioneering thought and action.
What has often been called the "Rockefeller approach" to conservation simply means that, for Rockefeller, people are the factor motivating conservation, that he believes nature was created for man's enjoyment.
It seems only appropriate that when in 1958 Congress created a federal commission—the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission—to examine the country's recreational needs and resources, John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s son Laurance, one of America's most outstanding and effective conservationists in his own right, should have been chosen to head it.
Laurance Rockefeller described his mandate, which includes completion of the commission's work by September 1, 1961, to the Committee on Appropriations as follows: "The commission is an independent, fact-finding body established to advise the Congress and the President on the expected recreational needs of the American people in 1976 and 2000. Our problem is to relate these anticipated needs to the resources available to meet them and to recommend appropriate programs and policies to this end. The responsibilities of the commission are distinguished from those of the permanent agencies in this field since we are required to consider all resources, federal and state, public and private, and to appraise present programs and activities in the context of emerging trends and potential opportunities."
The commission itself was composed of four Senators: Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico; Henry C. Dworshak of Idaho; Thomas E. Martin of Iowa; and, until his recent death, Richard L. Neuberger of Oregon; four members of the House, Representatives Collier, Pfost, Saylor and Ullman; and seven citizens, including Chairman Rockefeller, appointed by the President.
For the execution of what might seem an almost overwhelming task, the commission obtained an excellent staff, with Francis W. Sargent as the executive director. Sargent, a youthful, buoyant New Englander, tanned from a life spent outdoors, had built up a fine reputation in his native Massachusetts. His first appointment was as Director of Marine Fisheries, an industry vital to Massachusetts. Both to orient himself and to placate those trawler captains who considered him merely a "sport fisherman," he shipped out with a Boston trawler and learned how to split and clean haddock and how to stow fish. He also learned of something that had long concerned the crew: sometimes the trawlers destroyed four-fifths of their catch, keeping only those fish large enough to market profitably. Sargent had an opportunity to put the knowledge of this waste to use when he was appointed to the International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries. Against considerable opposition, he helped facilitate the adoption of a wider-meshed net which would enable the small, unmarketable fish to escape, saving millions of them every year for later harvesting.
A MAN WHO THINKS BIG
In 1956 Sargent was appointed Commissioner of Natural Resources for Massachusetts and, acting on the critical shortage of public recreation land in one of the country's most densely populated states, he recommended the acquisition of 157 areas, including parks, forests and beaches, over a 20-year period, at an estimated cost of $100 million. The legislature, accustomed to petitions for park improvements amounting to perhaps $5,000, listened in astonishment. Because his recommendations included the right of eminent domain to obtain access to land, some of his friends and associates called him a "socialist and worse." Sargent was not dismayed. To carry his point he traveled up and down the state, speaking almost every day to audiences ranging from tweedy tea-drinkers to Falmouth fishermen. His energy, sincerity and persuasive array of facts turned the tide, and the substance of his recommendations was adopted.
Francis Sargent obviously has extraordinary qualifications for the formidable task ahead. He will need them. In the same length of time that was spent on the Massachusetts inventory he is instructed to complete a nationwide inventory, including a report on the potentials of all public and private land and the ability of specific areas to meet mounting pressures. Among his many assignments is an "objective study" of the wilderness areas, a field noted principally for highly subjective claims and totally diverse viewpoints.
To keep the political and economic realities of multiple use constantly in mind, the commission has chosen an advisory group of 25 people. They represent wide geographic distribution and diverse interests. They include, for example, Cattleman A. D. Brownfield of New Mexico; David L. Francis, president of a coal concern in West Virginia; Joseph E. McCaffrey of the International Paper Company of Alabama; and Harvey O. Banks, director of Water Resources in California; as well as such eminent conservationists as Horace Albright, DeWitt Nelson, Ira N. Gabrielson and Kenneth Chorley.
Since their charter demands that they must report on the effectiveness of operations now in action, the 14 federal agencies and manifold state agencies concerned with recreation have been eying the commission warily lest these recommendations should be expressed in that dreaded word: "reorganization."
This fear has been handled with diplomacy. The commission has consistently emphasized its position as an objective study group and so far it has spent more time and attention on exploring ways to utilize the three-fourths of the country's land that is privately owned. The commission is investigating such incentives to private landowners as subsidies, tax remissions, leases and habitat improvements in return for the use of their land.
The report is not due for more than a year, and in the meantime the commission is occupied by a complex program of analysis and interpretation. The recommendations which will result from this will represent the commission's best judgment as to the policies and programs which should be adopted in the area of recreation land in the best interests of the American people—now and in the generations to follow.
Ultimately, however, it is up to the American people themselves to decide what they want to make of their lives and their country. Arnold Toynbee, the great English historian, concluded that a score of civilizations declined through "failure of self-determination." What he meant was that great countries which have established a way of life for others to follow lose their sense of purpose and drift toward goals not of their own choosing.
Today some pessimistic visionaries foresee a totally urbanized and industrialized America that will be an alarming caricature of the founders' original purpose, which was to allow all citizens the pursuit of happiness by making their burdens lighter. But there are other men, of greater sense, who believe we can learn to spend our newly acquired leisure to the profit both of ourselves and of the nation. How successful we are in this will depend in large measure on how soon and how well we learn to apply the concepts of social conservation to our land.
FOOTHILLS AND LOW COASTAL RANGERS
SOUTHERN COASTAL MOUNTAINS
DESERTS AND DESERT MOUNTAINS
HOW PLANNERS FORESEE NEED
The map at right represents an imaginary but typical piece of California geography, including a city and its suburbs, a state forest, a state park, a sizable lake and connecting highways. The chart below the map summarizes the behavior patterns of participants in 13 types of outdoor activity. Short-distance activities generally take precedence over such sports as hunting and camping for which people have proved themselves willing to travel. The problem, which recreational planning attempts to solve, is to relate the individual, and sometimes competing, demands of the participants, about 80% of whom live in the built-up area, to the land on the map.
To accomplish this, the planners draw two concentric circles around the city. The city itself and its suburbs are labeled Zone 1. The recreation demand here comes from all age groups and ranges from swimming to the quiet enjoyment of a municipal park. It is primarily up to the municipality and private enterprise to take the steps necessary to acquire this land and develop it for such use. The land inside the first circle, Zone 2, is within 40 miles of the city. The need here is for free and more naturally developed open space, which will be used by people who want to spend a day riding, hiking, picnicking and fishing. Zone 3 extends 250 miles from the city. It belongs to weekending families: campers, hunters, fishermen and sightseers. Zone 4, limited only by the zones of other cities, primarily attracts travelers with more time at their disposal.
Control of the land shown on this map lies in many hands. It is owned by individuals, municipalities, by the state and the federal governments. To achieve the objectives of the California plan, private owners must be given an incentive to open their land to the public, and government agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, which administer recreation areas, must work closely with state recreation officials. Only through such an over-all approach can the enormous number of California sportsmen expected by 1980 be accommodated and existing areas be rescued from misuse—or ruin.
75 to 175 miles
Demand is in camper-days. Improvement of present sites and new sites.