The Hidden Landscape of Yosemite National Park

Embed Size (px)

Text of The Hidden Landscape of Yosemite National Park

  • This article was downloaded by: [McMaster University]On: 05 November 2014, At: 07:23Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Journal of Cultural GeographyPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjcg20

    The Hidden Landscape ofYosemite National ParkCraig E. Colten a & Lary M. Dilsaver ba Louisiana State University , Baton Rouge, LA,70803b University of South Alabama , Mobile, AL, 36688Published online: 28 Jul 2009.

    To cite this article: Craig E. Colten & Lary M. Dilsaver (2005) The Hidden Landscapeof Yosemite National Park, Journal of Cultural Geography, 22:2, 27-50, DOI:10.1080/08873630509478238

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08873630509478238

    PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

    Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of theContent should not be relied upon and should be independently verified withprimary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of theContent.

    This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,

    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjcg20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/08873630509478238http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08873630509478238

  • sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone isexpressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    McM

    aste

    r U

    nive

    rsity

    ] at

    07:

    23 0

    5 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • journal of Cultural Geography Spring/Summer 2005 22(21:27-50

    The Hidden Landscape of Yosemite National Park

    Craig E. Colten and Lary M. Dilsaver

    ABSTRACT. National parks share many obvious landscape characteristics. One of them goes largely unnoticedinfrastructure to provide water, sewerage, and garbage services. This paper traces the gradual adoption of romantic-era concepts about shielding human intrusions in parks from public view by Park Service landscape designers during the early twentieth century. It focuses on sewerage, water, and garbage facilities which were essential to serve growing numbers of visitors, but highly antithetical to the idea of wilderness parks. After several years of ad hoc practice, the Park Service ultimately crafted specific guidelines on how best to sequester sanitation and other intrusive facilities from view. These largely unnoticed utilities safeguard the public health of visitors and contribute to the consistent landscape of the park system.

    INTRODUCTION

    Two very dynamic forces have been at work in shaping the human landscape of Yosemite National Park. Since the U.S. government established the national park in 1890 and assumed management of the popular Yosemite Valley in 1906 (Fig. 1), two central tenets of federal administration have been to preserve the wild scenery of the rugged setting and to provide comfortable access for the visiting public. As visitor numbers soared during the first third of the twentieth century, short-term populations exceeded those of small cities and the Park Service had to constantly upgrade and enlarge the fundamental sanitation services available to visitors. In an effort to avoid unsightly intrusions on the natural landscape, the Park Service developed a policy of screening or sequestering the essential, but intrusive water, sewerage, and garbage facilities.1

    27

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    McM

    aste

    r U

    nive

    rsity

    ] at

    07:

    23 0

    5 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

  • 28 Journal of Cultural Geography

    mite

    le

    y Yo

    se

    Val

    c > -yv. /

    / / r .|-g ft O- fl

    I \ \ i I

    . ^

    i 1 i

    i

    e | o

    \

    ;^ s"

    S5 "* 1 r

    >>nl^ / " /

    i 1 ,

    T

    | - > y K

    's

    \(v !/

    e \ 3

  • Hidden Landscape of Yosemite 29

    Although geographers tend to focus on the visible elements of the landscape, landscape is more than meets the eye. This is particularly important in the National Park Service as an organization that has set a worldwide precedent for creating and tending a unique landscape.

    These precious asylums, officially wild and geologically, biologically, or historically memorable places, do vary greatly in size, shape, and appearance, but there are certain family resemblances, visual clues that set them apart from ordinary terrain (Zelinsky 1990, 316).

    There are also certain largely invisible elements that contribute to those "family resemblances." Thomas and Geraldine Vale compared photographic images from the early and late twentieth century to track human impacts in Yosemite National Park. Their careful analysis of these photographic pairs identified numerous human influences on the natural landscape, but they concluded that "as crowded and developed as Yosemite Valley may be, it is still a pristine wilderness compared to the surrounding landscapes" (Vale and Vale 1994, 138). Beyond the heavily developed valley, the humanized landscapes within the park are even less evident. This suggests the federal influence of hiding intrusive landscape features has been highly effective.

    This paper traces the evolution of the concept behind obscuring undesirable human structures in the parks. Congress set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove for preservation and assigned the state of California their administration in 1864. One year later, noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted proclaimed that development should not intrude on the park's scenic wonders (Olmsted [1865] 1994). When the U.S. Army commenced management of a larger territory that surrounded the valley in 1890, it received a mandate to expel trespassing grazers, lumberjacks, and miners who were diminishing the park's natural wonders. In 1906, when California yielded administration of Yosemite Valley, federal authorities had to deal with sanitation problems stemming from a growing number of visitors who favored this portion of the sprawling park (Fig. 1). And finally, when Congress created the National Park Service in 1916, the new agency embarked on a course to protect the scenery, while also ensuring comfort and health for visitors. In order to do so, they had to expend considerable effort to hide the public works infrastructure in the park's most heavily visited sections.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    McM

    aste

    r U

    nive

    rsity

    ] at

    07:

    23 0

    5 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

  • 30 Journal of Cultural Geography

    Yosemite National Park is not unique in shielding what the Park Service considers intrusive features. Nonetheless, it is the focus of this study for three reasons. It was one of the earliest units and western Park Service officials worked out the process of making unwanted features invisible in this region. In addition, Yosemite's vast and awe-inspiring landscape, not singular unique features like geysers, provided the impetus to set it aside as a park. Thus, any intrusive elements anywhere could interfere with visitor enjoyment of the heralded panoramas. Finally, Yosemite was the object of substantial publicity and was proximate to a large urban population in San Francisco (Muir 1890a and 1890b). These factors encouraged heavy visitation and placed exceptional demands on the park's facilities. Ultimately, what became apparent in Yosemite National Park was that the landscape obscured is equally as important as the scenery that is showcased (Herring 2004).

    DEVELOPING AN IDEA

    The idea of hiding human infrastructure in a natural or wilderness setting developed more than a century before Yosemite's establishment as a state park in 1864. American ideas of landscape design derive from those promulgated in Britain during the middle and late eighteenth century (Carr 1998; Downing 1859; McClelland 1998). During that time British artists experienced a challenge to the classical style that imposed an orderly human dominion over the natural environment. In what has been called the "romantic movement," artists, authors, architects, and others instead sought the expression and inspiration of emotion in their works (Nardone and Okashimo 1982). English landscape gardening also faced this transition from a rigid formality to a more romantic sensibility. Two forms of landscape design became available for the estate owner the beautiful and the picturesque. The former was part of the classical tradition and emphasized orderly, neat lines and prominent human additions such as large buildings and manicured lawns as the foci of attention. The picturesque style called for a rustic, natural, and vaguely unkempt scene