National Geographic : 1966 Jul
time. And above all, the plan must assure that these facilities would not destroy the very things that people come to see: the great scenic, scientific, and historic heritage of our country. My musing began on a Saturday evening. The following Monday we started a task-force operation aimed at producing a model park system by 1966. Hidebound views about park management and practices went out the window. We listed our needs: physical im provements, increased staff, additional lands, new operating and training procedures, new methods of visitor protection, and new interpretation of park values-all based on new goals. Twelve months later the studies were completed, and we had our Mission 66 package. It was based on estimates that 80 million people would visit the parks in 1966. Putting the parks in shape to take care of them, and selecting new areas needed to round out the park system, would cost $786,500,000-an average of $78,650,000 a year. For a Park Service that during World War II had had as little as $5,000,000 a year to spend, and that in the 10 years afterward had averaged only $25,000,000 a year as its budget, this Mission 66 amount was an impressive sum. But, as it turned out, we undershot. Instead of an expected 80 million people, 121 million trooped through the national parks in the 12 months of 1965. Instead of a program cost of $786,000,000, the total has come to almost a billion -mostly because of increased costs of materials and labor, and the expenses of 50 areas added to the National Park System. Fortunate ly, Mission 66 laid foundations for dealing with this booming park popularity and the problems it poses for the future. But my successor as Director of the National Park Service, George B. Hartzog, Jr., tells you about that in his article beginning on page 48. President Eisenhower Poses a Question By 1956 we were ready to present the program to President Dwight D. Eisenhower for approval. The occasion came on Feb ruary 27, before a full Cabinet meeting in the White House. For 33 minutes, with the aid of slides and charts, we talked about the shape the parks were in, what needed to be done, and what it would cost. When we were finished, Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay asked if there were any questions. President Eisenhower spoke first. "I have a question," he said. "Why was not this request made back in 1953?" That was Ike's beginning year in office. For the first time since I had begun the presentation, my knees stopped shaking. But I was afraid everyone in the room would hear my heart pounding. Mission 66, I now knew, would have the full support of the administration! What have the American people gotten for the billion spent on their parks? The list is too long to print here, but let me begin with roads-to be precise, 4,337 miles of them improved or built new. Take Yosemite's Tioga Road. Back in the 1880's the Great Sierra Consolidated Silver Company hewed a wagon track from western lowlands up through the High Sierra country. It led to a mine at Dana, near what is now Tioga Pass at Yosemite Park's eastern boundary. With pick, shovel, and blasting powder, Americans and Chinese cut 5612 miles in 130 days. But no ore wagon ever rolled Ramrod straight stand the Four Guardsmen at the southern ap proach to the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Thicker trunk and cinnamon bark distinguish these Sequoia gigantea from the taller brown coast redwoods. Mission 66 trails lead hikers through templelike groves in Sequoia and adjacent Kings Canyon Parks. S KODACHROMEBY B. ANTHONY STEWART© N.G.S.