Cover Photo: Jonathan C. Wheeler
23 states are without a designated national park. Of those 23 states, one midwestern state has seen a National Park come and go as the idea of conservation and recreation changed over time.
“It’s really different from the other national parks because it doesn’t have this grand scenery” – Heidi Hoffman, Iowa State University Professor of Landscape Architecture
The story begins in 1906, when Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes entered negotiations with the federal government to protect a series of springs local tribes believed to have healing powers. Ultimately, the Native American tribes successfully lobbied their cause and ultimately Platt National Park was formed. Known as “The Oasis of Oklahoma,” the park included a series of freshwater springs that drew thousands of tourists annually. Unfortunately, those thousands of tourists would eventually blur the line between conservation and recreation.
In lieu of stunning scenery normally associated with National Parks, members of the Civilian Conservation Corps transplanted bison, built edifices around the springs, and extensively landscaped the area to make the park fit the National Park perception.
In an ironic twist of fate, by making the park more NPS like, the park lost its favor amongst its protectors– conservationists. Those conservationists ended up viewing the area as more of a leisure destination than an example of conservation, education, and natural beauty. That perception ultimately lead to Platt National Park being rebranded as Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Find the entire NPR article here: In Oklahoma, A National Park That Got Demoted