National Park

(1906 - 1976)

Pruning the Parks: Platt National Park (1906-1976)

National Parks Traveler

The little park had some problems that no naming decision could cure. It was not only off the beaten path and very small (one of the smallest National Park-designated units ever established), but also lacking in physical and cultural attributes that could pass the national significance test. It was, in brief, a moderately scenic tract of land and water whose root appeal – the allegedly health-giving springs notwithstanding-- could be matched or eclipsed by any number of moderately scenic places in the eastern half of the United States.

During the first quarter-century of its existence, Platt National Park attracted little public notice and few visitors from outside the region. It also suffered for want of funds and physical improvements. Supplementing the park’s small staff and meager budget, concerned citizens raised money, donated manpower, and helped to add some infrastructure (bridges, fences, cisterns) and a few amenities (including some swimming pools). To entertain visitors, deer, bison, and elk were kept on the premises (some bison still remain).

Between 1933 and 1940, the Civilian Conservation Corps invested a lot of time, labor, and capital in an effort to make Platt National Park more deserving of its lofty title. Bulldozers resculpted the landscape, leaving various flat or gently rolling surfaces engineered to a hillier condition. Several hundred CCC workers planted trees and constructed waterfalls, ponds, trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, pavilions, parking lots, comfort stations, storm sewers, and dams. Projects completed by the Civil Works Administration and the Public Works Administration (later the Works Projects Administration) also substantially improved the road system. All of this made the place more parklike, though still not patently worthy of national park status.