Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years

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Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years
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Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years
Pickering, James H.
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:28:07 PM] Home Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 YearsRocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 YearsSubmitted by CLEAVITT on 7-12-2014 03:11 PMAuthor: Mary Taylor Young Publishing: Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years. By Mary Taylor Young. Helena, MT: Farcountry Press, 2014. 166 pages. Color photographs, index. 11 x 12. $39.95 hardcover. Reviewer: James H. Pickering Reviewer Affiliation: University of Houston Important milestone events deserve celebration. This is certainly true of the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), which was formally dedicated on September 3, 1915. Centennial events are scheduled to begin later this year and continue on into next. Mary Taylor Youngs Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years published by Farcountry Press in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy (formerly the Rocky Mountain Nature Association), provides a most appropriate context for the retrospective that is to follow. Books tend to be shaped by the audience for whom they are intended. Taylors intended audience is the three million plus people who visit RMNP each summer, and the millions more who over the years have developed a personal relationship with one of Americas most visited national parks and would like to know more. They will not be disappointed. Mary Taylor Young, who has authored some fifteen books on the landscape, wildlife, and cultural heritage of Colorado and the West, and in 2012 spent a memorable two weeks living in the William Allen White Cabin as Artist-in-Residence, is a most able and amiable guide. In thirteen topical chapters she provides a comprehensive, fact-filled overview of the park and its history. Young begins with the parks geologic story and its prehistory, for we now know from the gathered evidence that ice-age hunters visited the area at least 11,000 years ago. From there she traces the parks human history through Arapaho times to its first Euro-American visitors, including Joel Estes, an inveterate wanderer from Kentucky, who first visited the Estes Valley in October of 1859 and then gave the place his name. Other chapters deal with the rise of tourism, the hard-fought six-year campaign that led to the parks creation and the influential role that the automobile played in its early development, and the ups and downs of the Depression and World War II years. The final chapters bring the parks story down to the present, including a discussion of the issues and challenges, ecological and otherwise, which the park faces today and will face tomorrow. In the process we learn a great deal about the men and women who shaped the parks history, some well known but others not. A number of these are neatly dealt with in set-off sidebar cameos. Taylor is an engaging writer and the books narrative flow is flawless, a real achievement in a book that tells so much in so few pages. EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanIn 1893, Colorado became the first state in the union to allow women the right to vote through popular election.


Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:28:07 PM] The book itself is visually stunning. Its text is supplemented by some 250 illustrations, including historic black-and-white photographs by William Henry Jackson, Willis T. Lee, and Fred Clatworthy; full-page color contemporary photographs by Erik Stensland, John Fielder, Glenn Randall, Lee Kline, and Steve Mohlenkamp; and color reproductions of the work of landscape artists Charles Partridge Adams, Birger Sandzen, and Dave Stirling, to cite but a few. All books have their limitations, and Youngs book is no exception. Perhaps, in part, because of space, but certainly also by conscious decision, park controversies and criticisms of park policy are largely avoided, or glossed over. These include the decade-long Cede Jurisdiction debate over the control of park roads, a controversy that became so heated that in 1927 Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work told both houses of the Colorado legislature that he was prepared to give RMNP back to them. Much the same thing is true with respect to the 1991 decision to close the Hidden Valley Winter Use Area to skiing. And while the author spends considerable time underscoring the parks current commitment to scientific research, including the effort to understand the impact of climate change (more than a hundred research permits are issued each year), there is no attempt to answer choleric critics like Karl Hess Jr., who argued in his controversial 1993 book Rocky Times in Rocky Mountain National Park that bureaucratic park management denigrated its own scientists in bringing RMNP to the brink of ecological disaster (96). Though these were, of course, serious charges, Hesss book brought few rejoinders. Hindsight offers such an opportunity, and Young might well have followed the lead of Jerry Frank, who in his recent environmental history of the park, Making Rocky Mountain National Park (2013), a work cited in her bibliography, rightly concludes that in their zeal to return the park to what they understood as its natural state, those who favored an ecological view set about tinkering with the plants, animals, fires, waters, soils, and insects within the parkoften with less than desirable results. Unlike Hess, Frank is charitable. He also notes that such efforts reflect the fact that like most of us, the NPS has too often mistaken the science of the dayeven sound scienceas its final truth (205). Admittedly, one might argue that such discussion has no place in the kind of book that Mary Taylor Young set out to write. But it assuredly does have a place in the discussion as we attempt to understand and measure the impact of Park Service policy on Rocky Mountain National Park during the past century. It is perhaps a truism, but, if so, bears repetition, that to adequately engage the present, let alone anticipate the future, one must first honestly and accurately understand the past. To quote Frank once more. None of this means that Rocky Mountain National Park is less beautiful, less worthy of our esteem and love, or less deserving of the very best care we can give it. It does, however, demand that we come to terms with the role of humans and our history in making this magnificent place (205). There are also errors of fact, however small (I counted at least fifteen), which could (and should) have been caught before publication. These will not matter to the general reader, though left uncorrected they tend to make the book a less reliable resource than it should be. On the matter of interpretation, there is little to quarrel with, though this reviewer regrets the authors all-too-easy repetition of the now amply discredited story that the Earl of Dunraven (who was Irish, not English) was motivated in his land grabbing by the desire to turn Estes Park into a game preserve for himself and his aristocratic friends, a story that can, somewhat ironically, be traced to Enos Mills and his 1905 history of Estes Park. In the context of the book as a whole, these are small matters. Thanks to Mary Taylor Young, Rocky Mountain National Parks centennial year celebration is off to a fine beginning.


Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:28:07 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us Reviewer Info: James H. Pickering is professor of English emeritus at the University of Houston where he also served as dean, provost, and president. He has to date written or edited thirty books on Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Colorado and the American West. His most recent book, Joe Mills of Estes Park a biography of Enos Millss younger brother, was named a finalist for the 2014 Colorado Book Award. He is currently completing a book on Rocky Mountain National Park to be published in 2015 by the University of Utah Press. He now makes his home in Estes Park, which in 2006 named him its Historian Laureate.