Did the WPA Create National Parks?

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View of Yellowstone national park

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was vital during the early 20th century. Due to their efforts, we can enjoy many parks and recreational opportunities. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, they’ve positively impacted our country.

Many national parks we enjoy today started while the WPA was forming. So how big of a role did they play, and did they create national parks?

Today, we’ll see how the Work Progress Administration helped the National Park Service. Let’s get started!

What Was the Works Progress Administration (WPA)?

The Works Progress Administration was a federal agency President Franklin D. Roosevelt created during the Great Depression as part of his New Deal program.

It provided millions of unemployed Americans with jobs. It was one of the most challenging economic times in history. Many Americans struggled to make ends meet.

The WPA was responsible for a wide range of projects. These included the construction of roads, bridges, schools, and other public buildings. They also supported artists, writers, and musicians to help preserve arts and culture.

The program provided jobs and support to millions of Americans. It helped to build infrastructures for the nation. Millions of people today enjoy the fruits of labor from the program.

WPA workers doing construction outside of a home
Source: History.com/ Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis Via Getty Images

Why Did the Works Progress Administration End?

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) ended during World War II in 1943. The program did its job, and the country’s economy recovered. The country no longer needed a federal jobs program.

With World War II approaching, the government shifted its focus. Many workers employed by WPA programs found jobs related to war efforts. These included manufacturing, defense, and logistics.

The WPA’s legacy lives on in the many public works projects and programs. Many of the roads, bridges, and public buildings constructed by the program continue to serve communities.

Did the WPA Create National Parks?

While the WPA played an essential function in some national parks, it did not make any national parks. But the job program developed and improved infrastructures for national parks. 

For example, it helped create the 105-mile Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. However, this is just one of many projects for which the WPA is responsible.

How Did the Works Progress Administration Help Build National Parks?

So while the Works Progress Administration may not have created national parks, the WPA did help build them. Let’s look at some of the major projects they were responsible for.

Construction of Buildings

The program helped develop visitor centers, campgrounds, and other facilities in national parks. It helped improve the visitor experience and encouraged guests to return.

There were also projects on facilities in many national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon National Parks.

These facilities provided essential amenities for visitors, making it easier for them to explore and enjoy themselves.

In addition to visitor facilities, the WPA also funded the construction of park buildings. This included ranger stations, maintenance buildings, and employee housing.

These buildings were necessary for the operation and maintenance of the parks. They helped support workers employed by the National Park Service.

Build Trails and Roads

The federal program also helped build trails and roads in national parks. During the Great Depression, many national parks desperately needed repair. The WPA provided the resources and workforce necessary to improve and expand the park trail and road systems.

They constructed many of the trails that visitors still use today. You can find these in Grand Canyon National Park and Shenandoah National Park. These trails provide access to some of the best features in the parks.

The workers helped construct many roads that visitors still use today. As mentioned, Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is one of their largest projects.

However, they also undertook Rim Drive in Crater Lake National Park. These drives provide visitors with incredible views and allow them to access remote areas.

Keep in Mind: It’s never too early to start planning your fall getaways! If you’re thinking of visiting any national parks in the fall, then they need to be the parks on this list.

View of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park

Conservation Work

Many national parks required restoration and conservation during this time. The WPA funded programs to help protect and preserve these natural treasures.

The program provided funding for research and documentation of the natural resources in national parks. It helped identify areas of concern and guided park managers on protecting and preserving these resources.

Historical Preservation

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) played a significant role in the historical preservation of national parks.

Many parks have historical structures and landmarks that require ongoing maintenance and restoration. The WPA provided funding and support for these efforts.

One of the WPA’s most notable historical preservation projects was restoring Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Until the WPA got involved, it was a total wreck. The WPA restored the building’s roof, windows, and interior. 

The WPA also funded restoring and maintaining other historical structures in national parks. These included many buildings in Yellowstone and Mesa Verde National Park.

They supported research and documentation efforts to help to uncover and preserve important historical artifacts and sites.

View of Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Promotional and Education

Finally, the WPA supported the development and production of promotional materials.

They produced brochures, pamphlets, and posters for the National Park Service. The materials highlighted the natural and cultural features of national parks.

Agents distributed the materials to travel agencies and other outlets. They helped increase awareness and interest in visiting national parks.

Their work helped increase the appreciation for these natural resources and laid the foundation for the continued growth and development of the NPS.

Keep in Mind: Can national park rangers actually arrest you? Let’s find out!

Thank the WPA for Helping the National Parks System

While the Works Progress Administration (WPA) did not create national parks, it did help our nation in vital ways. We can remember the WPA’s role as we enjoy our national parks.

We should thank the workers and leaders who made it possible. Because of their efforts, we can explore and enjoy these incredible locations. 

Did you know about the Works Progress Administration?

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