This poster was presented at A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.
By Mark Gessler
In the fall 1919 edition of the Iowa Conservation magazine, just three years after the passing of the National Park Service Organic Act, Prof. Frank H. Culley of Iowa State University titled a similar article, Scenic Drives and Their Relation to a State Park System, though within it he also discussed National Parks and the importance of automotive accessibility to parks, as well as within them. He was both a naturalist and landscape architect in his approach, arguing “[i]n designing and furnishing these drives simplicity with the predominating note of naturalness must be the goal. This can be directly applied to the alignment, grade, plantings and any of the architectural features that may be necessary. Drives of this type should follow closely the natural contours thus eliminating all unnecessary cuts and fills.” Moreover, that the “scenic drive is refinement of detail in the National Park System which the everyday life of the individual and aids in tying the national system together in much the same manner as a ribbon holds together the bouquet.” Indeed, Cully was merely advocating an approach to park use and management that the National Park Service had anticipated, considering that on June 15, 1916 – more than a month before the Organic Act was signed into law – Yellowstone National Park had issued its Regulations Governing the Admission of Automobiles. Following the coordination of automotive transportation to national parks, as well as the designing of scenic drives within them, visitation to them increased significantly.
In respect to the theme of the conference, automotive heritage and scenic driving to and within parks has played a significant part of their built environment. Therefore, preserving historic scenic drives and routes needs to be part of the preservation planning objective. Additionally, as we shall argue in our paper, the preservation of specific automobiles needs to be considered in relation to the scenic drive routes because of the response of the automotive industry, thus creating a mutual association between the two. For instance, between 1936 and 1950 Nash Motors Company (fl. 1916-1954) developed a “bed-in-a-car” feature so that people could use their automobiles for camping in parks. Considering that Iowa as of this day still does not have a National Park, commuting to one by automobile is still important, not to forget the site seeing touring that takes place after arrival. Only through considering the immoveable aspects of National Park System scenic drive routes with the moveable vehicles that utilized them can a comprehensive approach be made towards preserving this aspect of park built environment.
Mark Gessler was a biotechnology entrepreneur and public company executive in his former life. Heco-founded numerous venture-backed companies and served as a public company president and CEO for nearly half of his 20-year career. A lifelong lover of automobiles, Mark gave up the hamster wheel for the steering wheel in 2007 and became president of the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) in 2012. As the co-founder and president of the HVA and a global vice-president for FIVA (the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens), Mark is now a full-time car and social entrepreneur focused on preserving our national automotive heritage. He is also a frequent judge, competitor, and participant in national and international automotive events.