June 29, 2014

Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge - Part 3

It's not just an incinerator, it is a "Kernerator,"
by the Kern Incinerator Co. of Milwaukee.

The US Forest Service's remaking of Davenport Campground into something like Arthur Carhart's original vision, as mentioned in my last post, was praise-worthy.

But does it make up for the Service's obliteration of much of Carhart's original vision for recreational faciltiies? Not really.

Under the supervision of Carhart and his former landscape-architecture professor-turned-business partner, Frank Culley, Boy Scouts and other workers built facilities on South Hardscrabble Creek — the Florence Picnic Ground — and on North Creek, just north of Beulah. Another picnic ground was built at Smith Creek, in Hardscrabble Canyon above Wetmore.

In the late 1970s, the Forest Service demolished them all. According to a friend of mine, a life-long area resident who attended a public meeting about this decision held in Beulah, the USFS representative claimed these facilities were "inacessible" and "rarely visited."

Another friend, a Westcliffe resident, said he had heard they were demolished due to vandalism problems. In any case, the Forest Service no longer wanted to maintain them.

Instead of picnic tables, trash receptacles, outhouses, etc., the new model was "dispersed camping." Tack up a sign saying "Pack in it, pack it out," and all is good. Of course, no one packs out human shit.

A lot of this dispersed camping takes place in very locations where Carhart laid out picnic and campgrounds!

We have come full circle back to 1919, except that the standard of environmental education among forest visitors is a little higher. Sometimes.

The incinerator built to burn trash from the 1920s Squirrel Creek campsites slowly crumbles away.

Arthur Carhart's contract with the Forest Service lasted only from 1920–1922, after which time funding was . . . lost. He went into private practice and did other interesting work, but eventually became a full-time writer of fiction and nonfiction with outdoor themes.

Just tonight, I heard a professional chef praising his The Outdoorsman's Cookbook. Of course, this praise was from a guy who has walked the Squirrel Creek Trail himself.

Until recently, recreation was not truly a Forest Service priority — at least that was my perception. As a specialty, it lacked prestige. From its early twentieth-century creation onward, the Forest Service was all about timber management — and also grazing management — and firefighting to protect those two priorities.

I remember Dad when he was a USFS district ranger in the Black Hills saying (without irony), "We're tree farmers."

As opposed, it did not need to be said, to the pressed-pants-wearing, somewhat sissified  (Dept. of the Interior) National Park Service rangers who led tourists around by the hand, (Dept. of Agriculture) Forest Service rangers did real stuff with horses, axes, increment borers, cruising rods, and log-scaling rules.

Recreation on his district was handled by one man, a "recreation guard," who lived in a cabin off away from the work center and had a crew of seasonal workers in the summer.

People who rose in the hierarchy came from a forestry background, not a recreation background, although that has changed some in the last generation.

But thanks to the San Isabel Public Recreation Association and Carhart's and Culley's work, private interests began pushing tourism in and around the San Isabel National Forest, something I will look at next.

2 comments:

Peculiar said...

It's rather interesting living out here near Inyo National Forest, a forest whose focus has shifted almost entirely to recreation and preservation. It often seems like they really might as well just give it to the Park Service. I suppose it's not surprising, though, since the Inyo is full of spectacular scenery but has a decided shortage of actual trees.

Chas Clifton said...

Was it managed more for grazing at one time?