The Hidden Secrets of Rock Creek Park
Many people see Rock Creek Park as just simply what it is, a park where children play, people picnic, run, bike, or hike, and people come together to have a good time and relax. However, Rock Creek Park has an elaborate and complicated history that adds a uniqueness to the area that can be found nowhere else in the world. Whether it be the formation of the park due to the need for a presidential mansion, the regulation of the park under military ruling, or the introduction of camps and other additions to the park, Rock Creek truly stands out among other national parks in the United States, however most people are not aware of the historical background that Rock Creek carries. While many other national parks stand out due to their natural beauty, such as Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon, Rock Creek’s establishment and background are what make it truly special. Many people discuss the tranquility and simplistic beauty, or the multitude of events that occur within Rock Creek Park, however, author Barry Mackintosh strays from the expected and highlights numerous historical events of the Rock Creek area in his work Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History.
To begin, Mackintosh discusses his reasoning for writing his historical analysis of Rock Creek Park. He explains that he was asked to write the history so it could be used as a background for any legislation that may need to be passed, or for any other purpose that may arise that deems a history of the area to be necessary. The author goes on to argue that his analysis is different from other histories of Rock Creek in that his history is more broad whereas others go into detail about specific aspects of the park. Mackintosh also discusses his hopes of the succinctness of his history being appreciated by his readers. The author prerequisites his analysis with this short excerpt because he wishes to explain the reasoning for his writing the history of Rock Creek Park, as well as using this page to thank those who aided and supported him during his time writing the book. This also allows the readers to fully understand the content throughout the rest of the work (Mackintosh, n.p.).
Following the preface, the author chooses to describe the legislative process by which Rock Creek Park was established. He explains that the interest in creating the park first came about because of the lack of space and privacy in the White House for the president and his family. The park was initially wanted as a space to build an executive mansion as well as a place for people to go and appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the park. However, the bill asking for the money to fix Rock Creek into a park was not initially passed in the house due to the financial situation of the United States at the time. The Senate agreed to the bill, however, people in the House of Representatives didn’t believe that the formation of the park was going to be as inexpensive as everyone claimed, so they did not allow the bill to pass, thus stopping the creation of the park for a short while. A few other bills were brought to Congress regarding the formation of the park, but were once again vetoed by the House of Representatives until one day the bill gained enough public and congressional support to be passed. The author goes on to explain how the act allocated around $1.2 million to the formation of the park, this sum not including the cost of upkeep, and how drafting for the park began and preparations were made for construction and development of the area (ch.1). Mackintosh chose to put this section next in his history because it explains the legislative side of the formation of Rock Creek Park, starting with just the mere idea of creating a Park, and then going through to the passing of the bill that established Rock Creek Park. This gives the readers a brief background history about the difficulties of forming Rock Creek Park, which allows them to correctly understand the rest of the historical analysis, as well as learning more about the unique history of Rock Creek Park.
In addition to the legislative history, Mackintosh discusses the steps that were taken to complete the formation of the park under the control of the military. The author explains the process of forming the boundaries of the park, and how park managers were chosen to run and operate the park on a day-to-day basis. He then explains the formation of roads and trails within the park and how public use of the park was regulated when the park was first established. The formation of a camp, a golf course, and a cabin was also discussed within this section of the paper, and the author went on to explain the historical significance of Pierce Mill, which is a mill that used to be active in the park grounds. Mackintosh then discusses the important people who have visited and spent significant time within the park, and how the continuously changing suburban and urban areas that surround the park affect its integrity and biodiversity (ch.2). The author discussed these topics at this point in the analysis because it gives the reader an idea about how the area of Rock Creek was transitioned into a national park, and what changes were made to the existing nature. This information allows the readers to gain more relevant facts about Rock Creek Park that will allow them to continue to read the book with a solid understanding of the basic creation and development of Rock Creek Park. In addition to this, discussing the important historical figures that have visited Rock Creek makes the park seem even more important and interesting to the reader.
Mackintosh also discusses the formation of Rock Creek and the Potomac Parkway in regards to Rock Creek Park and its integrity. The author discusses the many issues that first arose with the formation of Rock Creek. Mackintosh states that some persons in the Senate wished to turn one of the segments of Rock Creek into a closed sewer essentially. There was already sewage leaking into that area of the creek, and the Senate believed that it would be best just to close off that section of the creek, and allow the area to become a closed sewage landfill. Numerous individuals in charge of preserving and maintaining the park severely opposed this idea due to the environmental impact it would have on the park. It would also add in an unwanted eyesore to the national park that may discourage people from wanting to go into that area of the park. The author also uses this section of his analysis to discuss the formation of the Potomac Parkway, the roadway that was built in and around some areas of Rock Creek Park (ch.3). Mackintosh discusses these additions, as well as a few other minor changes, in this part of the book because it gives a more extensive explanation of how certain aspects of the park came to be. The author spends most of his time explaining the formation of Rock Creek and the Potomac Parkway because those are the two most major and most controversial additions to the park, and he feels that they should be more fully explained so that reader can understand the extent to which these affected the park.
Within the next section of his text, Mackintosh elaborates on the effect that a changing executive administration had on the park and its characteristics. He also discusses how the constant upkeep and the thousands of people going in and out of the park each day negatively affected the environment of the park and the biodiversity that was within the park. Mackintosh also touches on the addition of cars within and in close proximity to Rock Creek Park and how the area was changed by the constant gaseous emissions and pressure put on the park due. The addition of bicycle racks and new trails was also discussed along with the use of horses within the park grounds. Mackintosh explained the significance of the Pierce-Klingle house within the park, and how the nature center within Rock Creek Park came to be. He also elaborated more about the Pierce Mill, and the addition of the Art Barn in the park, and the numerous groups that have occupied Camp Good Will, which was a campsite in the Rock Creek Park area. Further discussion of the recreation within the park, and entertainment in the park can be found within this section, as well as the debate about the addition of two buildings near the mouth of Rock Creek (ch.4). The author discussed these topics at this point in the history because it was the next logical step in the progression of the explanation of the history. These details are more recent than the others that had been discussed in the analysis already, and they allow the reader to expand their knowledge about Rock Creek Park in an organized way. This section was also the last section in the author’s analysis to give information about significant historical changes within the park, so it makes sense sequentially that this information would be given towards the end of the historical analysis.
To conclude his book, Mackintosh discusses the importance and significance of Rock Creek Park. He states that the park is 100 years old as of 1990, which is significantly longer than many of the other national parks within the United States, and is thus a reason to celebrate. The author also discusses the beauty of the park and the increase in value the park has accrued through the years that has been brought about by the additions to the park, as well as the urban and suburban development around the park. Mackintosh states how historically and culturally important the park is and how although Rock Creek doesn’t have any extreme natural uniqueness, those who use the park for recreation and relaxation appreciate its simplicity and its subtle beauty (ch.5). Mackintosh ends his work with this because it is an upbeat and inspirational ending to a rather complex and sometimes disheartening history of the establishment of Rock Creek Park. The author chooses to give his readers a positive and happy emotion as they end his work so that they associate a good feeling to the analysis.
Mackintosh, in his work Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History, explains in a brief overview the historical significance of Rock Creek Park, and the hardships of its establishment. The author formulates his analysis is a way that flows smoothly from the first interest in making a park all the way through to the recent past and any changes that occurred within the park and the surrounding area in between this timeline. Throughout this work, it can be seen that the establishment of Rock Creek Park was not without a fair share of difficulties. Problems with legislation, finances, maintenance, outside construction, and urbanization challenged the area, however, Rock Creek Park stood through it all. Although Rock Creek is a beautiful and highly adored park used by many people within Washington, D.C., the history of the park and its ability to withstand all the obstacles put in its way are what make the park that much more special.