Submitted to : Oregon Department of Transportation

Growth of Parks and Waysides (1921-1932)

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7.4 Growth of Parks and Waysides (1921-1932)


The 1921-1932 period of US 101’s development is marked by several legislative initiatives and acts that facilitated both the highway and state parks movements in Oregon. The most significant highway legislation established the Roosevelt Coast Military Highway (“Roosevelt Highway”) as an official state highway and created a conduit for federal funding. Recreational and scenic interests were critical to government legislation as well. A series of laws passed during this period established the regulatory foundation for creating the state parks system in Oregon. The improvement and management of state parks fell under the Highway Commission’s responsibilities. Initially charged with developing recreation areas adjacent to state highways to promote travel, the Highway Commission turned to the Oregon Coast for its vast potential to advance these goals.

Highway Legislation

The state had previously requested $2.5 million from the federal government for US 101’s’s construction. The federal government failed to promptly respond to the state’s request, provoking state senators Norblad and Hall to submit the Norblad-Hall Roosevelt Military Highway Bill, proposing that construction begin regardless of funding availability.206 On February 28, 1921, Oregon enacted Chapter 395 into law, designating the Roosevelt Highway as a state highway. The law also gave the Highway Commission authority to appropriate existing roads, but affirmed that the highway in its entirety would be known as the “Roosevelt Coast Military Highway.”207

In November, the U. S. Congress passed the Federal Highway Act of 1921, creating a federal highway system of primary and secondary highways. The Act also identified the Roosevelt Highway as a primary highway, and classified it as eligible for federal funding. County jurisdiction over state highway right-of-way (ROW) was transferred to state control, and the Highway Commission took responsibility for maintenance of all Roosevelt Highway’s newly completed sections. 208

The federal government never authorized the state’s original highway funding request, but the federal government provided other funds for Oregon’s state highway development. As a result of this arrangement, the Highway Commission retained discretion over how to distribute the funds among the counties, and the Roosevelt Highway received little funding in light of competition related to other major highways projects. The Roosevelt Highway Association formed to voice concerns over the lack of funding dedicated to the coast highway. Led by Benjamin F. Jones, the Association catalyzed statewide support for the highway’s development over the following decade. 209

In 1925, the federal government created a standardized system for naming and numbering US Highways. At the federal level, the coast highway became U. S. Highway 101, but at the state level, it remained the Roosevelt Highway. The interstate routes also adopted US Standard Road Markers and Sign conventions to improve road sign visibility and readability, thereby preventing traffic accidents and saving lives. The new signs were installed throughout Oregon.210

One of the most important highway-related initiatives that occurred during this period was signed into law by Oregon Governor Walter Pierce in 1925. The law authorized the Highway Commission to establish acquire, construct, maintain, and operate a ferry across any stream, river, bay, arm of the ocean or other body of water on a state highway. The law was put into practice two-years later.211 In 1927, when the Highway Commission formally took control over the ferry system, ferries were operating at Gold Beach, Coos Bay, Reedsport, Florence, Waldport, and Newport. The Highway Commission planned to build additional ferries to traverse smaller rivers and bays along the coast and throughout the state.212 The legislation served as a short term solution to address challenges facing the Coast Highway’s six major waterway crossings. The Highway Commission regarded the Yaquina Bay, Alsea Bay, Siuslaw River, Umpqua River, Coos Bay and Rogue River waterways as major funding and construction hurdles to completing a continuous road.213

On October 19, 1929, Governor Patterson announced that funding would be available the following year for Roosevelt Highway construction, with completing the route as a high priority. Ten days later, on October 29, 1929, the U.S. Stock Market crashed and the country descended into the Great Depression. The federal government, perhaps unaware of the long term financial impacts, allocated over two million dollars in matching funds to the State of Oregon for road construction. Patterson responded by creating a state bond program. Patterson died of pneumonia in December, and State Senate President, Albin W. Norblad was sworn into office on Christmas day as governor. Norblad hailed from Astoria, and was one of the Roosevelt Highway’s strongest advocates. He promoted Patterson’s state bond program so that the state could continue to receive matching federal funds, asserting that the highway would bring the state desperately needed employment opportunities.214

On February 27, 1931, almost ten years after designation of the Roosevelt Highway, the Oregon Legislature changed the highway’s name to the Oregon Coast Highway (“Coast Highway”) and designated its route as extending from Astoria to California’s northern border. 215 In October 1931, the Oregon Coast Highway Association formally organized, with Governor Norblad as president and E. W. McMindea, a former Clatsop County agricultural agent, as secretary.216 The organization quickly mobilized a lobbying campaign to advance bridge construction along Coast Highway’s six major water crossings. The group advocated immediate construction of wood structure bridges, partly to engage support from regional timber interests. They also sought to expedite the construction process, attesting that wood construction was a faster and more economical approach than expensive permanent concrete structure, which would require years to secure funding.217 The association played an important role in securing bridge funding, but their argument for wood construction materials failed. The concrete structure Rogue River Bridge was constructed in 1932, but ferries continued to operate at the other five crossings for several more years while, amidst a national economic crises, a long battle for bridge funding ensued.

Parks Legislation

In addition to significant regulatory highway advancements, the State of Oregon implemented additional measures in 1921 to ensure support for scenic preservation along Oregon’s highways. Governor Olcott requested scenic preservation legislation to:

  • empower the Highway Commission to acquire rights of way along state highways for the maintenance and preservation of scenic beauty;

  • outlaw the destructive cutting of trees along state highways; and

  • authorize the Highway Commission to acquire land for parks and parking places to be used by the traveling public.218

The right-of-way and clear-cutting proposals passed. Although the parks proposal did not pass, the state could acquire land right-of-way and authorized the Highway Commission to acquire land right-of-way within 300 feet of highway centerlines.219 This pivotal legislation helped secure public access to scenic waysides and viewing points along the highway. These recreation sites become a key component of the Coast Highway’s cultural landscape. In 1924, a state tree-planting advisory committee was appointed to lead tree-planting activities, as part of a larger roadside and highway beautification initiative.220 The committee became known as the “Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee” and soon expanded its scope to promote a system of “highway parks.” The first park advisory body in the state, it remained active until 1929.221

In 1925, the state passed legislation authorizing the Highway Commission to acquire lands for the “culture of trees and the preservation of scenic places along state highways, and for parks, parking places, camp sites, public squares and recreation grounds.”222 The legislation rendered land tracts more than 300 feet beyond the highway eligible for park development. The Highway Commission also obtained the authority to improve, maintain and supervise these park lands using state highway funds. Because a portion of gasoline tax revenue supported the state highway system, the Highway Commission promoted automobile-related tourism and park use along the state highways.

Congress passed the Federal Recreation Act on June 14, 1926 (“Recreation Act”) which allowed the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) to sell public domain lands for $2.50 per acre to public agencies for recreation purposes. Under this act, the Oregon State Highway Department obtained several strips of land along highways throughout Oregon for state park use, including two land tracts along the Roosevelt Highway in Curry County for the Ophir Waysides and a 290-acre addition to Humbug Mountain State Park. In Lincoln County, the state obtained eight small tracts for Yachats Park in Yachats and land for the Otter Crest wayside at the highway summit six miles north of Newport.223

Under Oregon’s limited approach to parks, the state acquired lands without an entity specifically charged to manage them. In May 1929, the governor created a State Park Commission composed of the existing Highway Commission plus two former Highway Commission chairmen, William C. Duby and R. A. Booth.224 The State Park Commission had a short active period and met only once, but managed to successfully enact an initiative to expand the state parks and install a superintendent.225 Their mission was:

To create and develop for the people of the State of Oregon a state park system, to acquire and protect timbered strips on the borders of state highways, rivers and streams, to secure in public ownership typical stands of the trees native to Oregon, to maintain the public right to use of the sea beaches of the state, to seek the protection of our native shrubs and flowers and to preserve the natural beauty of the state.226

The State Park Commission designated Samuel H. Boardman as “state parks engineer” to serve as superintendent of Oregon’s state park program.

Samuel H. Boardman

Samuel H. Boardman, Oregon’s first state park superintendent, was born in 1874 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He studied at Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and then worked in engineering for several Colorado companies before moving to Oregon in 1903. After becoming an Oregon resident, he continued to work as a highway and railroad engineer for private companies including the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad and the Portland Railroad & Navigation Company. Motivated to improve the dry conditions on his 1903 homestead claim in Morrow County, Boardman spent several years developing an irrigation system. He platted the town of Boardman in 1916.227

Boardman joined the Highway Department maintenance section in 1919 and worked as an oil crew foreman.228 Boardman, a reputed nature-lover, actively participated in the department’s tree planting program and planted numerous trees along non-forested highway sections.229 During Boardman’s tenure as parks superintendent ( 1930 to 1951), he used his “remarkable ability to influence people toward gifting or selling their land for parks purposes,” helping the Highway Commission obtain thousands of park land acres to create “the land base that is the framework of the present [parks] system.”230

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