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Public Forests - The Playgrounds Of The Nation

( Originally Published 1922 )

The public forests are steadily increasing in popularity as the playgrounds of the Nation. The woodlands offer splendid opportunities for camping, hunting, fishing and outdoor life. Mil-lions of motorists now spend their vacations in the government and state forests. Railroads and automobiles make the forests accessible to all. Thousands of miles of improved motor highways lead into the very heart of the hills. More than 5,500,000 people annually visit the National Forests. Of this number, some 2,500,000 are campers, fishermen and hunters.

The forests provide cheap health insurance to all who will enjoy what they offer in sport and recreation. For example, over 1,000,000 vacationists visit Colorado's forests each year. If each person spent but five days in the forests, this would mean a total of 5,000,000 days or 50,000,000 hours of rest and enjoyment. Recreation at the beaches and amusement parks costs at least fifty cents an hour. Applying that rate to the free fun which the people get out of the forests, in Colorado in one year the tourists, campers and fishermen gained $25,000,000 worth of pleasure from the forests.

The National and State Forests furnish summer homes for thousands of people who live in the neighboring cities and towns. Regular summer home sites are laid off in many of the forests. Usually these individual sites cover about one-quarter acre or less. They rent for $5 to $25 a year, depending on the location. A man can rent one of these camp grounds for a term of years. He can build a summer cottage or bungalow on it. There are no special rules about the size or cost of the houses. Uncle Sam requires only that the cottages be sightly and the surroundings be kept clean and sanitary. Many. of the cabins are built for $150 to $300. Some of them are more permanent and cost from $3,000 to $5,000 or $10,000. In the Angeles National Forest in southern California, over sixteen hundred of these cottages are now in use and many more are being built.

Where there are dead or mature trees in the forest, near summer home sites, timber can be purchased at low prices for use in building cottages. Even the people of small means can build cabins in the forests and enjoy living in the mountains during the heat of the summer. These camps provide fine surroundings for the rompings and summer games of the children and young people.

In California a number of cities have set up municipal camps in the National Forests. At very low costs, the city residents can spend their vacations at these camps. Tents and cottages are provided. Facilities for all kinds of games and sports furnish recreation. Each family may stay at the camp for two weeks. The expenses are so low for meals and tents that the municipal camps furnish the best and cheapest vacation which the family of limited means can enjoy. These camps are very popular. W her-ever they have been tried, they have been successful. There are twelve municipal camps in California. They cost $150,000.

Fine automobile camps are maintained along many of the important National and State Forest highways for the use of tourists. Concrete fire-places, tables, benches and running water are provided at these wayside camping places. The tourists who carry their camp kits like to stop at these automobile camps. They meet many other tourists and exchange information about the best trails to follow and the condition of the roads. Sometimes, permanent cabins and shelters are provided for the use of the cross-country travelers. The only rules are that care be exercised in the use of fire and the camping sites be kept in clean and sanitary condition.

All the forest roads are posted with many signs asking the tourists to be careful in the use of matches, tobacco and camp fires, so as not to start destructive forest fires. In the Federal and State forests hundreds of man-caused fires occur annually, due to the neglect and carelessness of campers and tourists to put out their camp fires. A single match or a cigarette stub tossed from a passing automobile may start a costly fire. During the season from May to October, the western forests usually are as dry as tinder. Rains are rare during that period. A fire once started runs riot unless efficient control measures are used at once.

Those interested in fishing and hunting usually can find plenty of chance to pursue their favorite sports in the National and State Forests. There is good fishing in the forest streams and lakes, as the rangers, working in cooperation with Federal and State hatcheries yearly restock important waters. Fishing and hunting in the National Forests are regulated by the fish and game laws of that state in which the forests are located. The killing of wild game is permitted during certain open seasons in most of the forest regions.

The eastern forests in the White Mountains, the Adirondacks, and the Appalachians, are not, for the most part, as well developed as recreation grounds as are the western vacation lands. How-ever, more interest is being taken each year in the outdoor life features of the eastern forests, and ultimately they will be used on a large scale as summer camp grounds. Many hikers and campers now spend their annual vacations in these forests. Throughout the White Mountain forest of New Hampshire, regular trails for walking parties have been made. At frequent intervals simple camps for the use of travelers have been built by mountaineering clubs. This forest, located as it is near centres of large population is visited by a half-million tourists each season. The Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina is becoming a centre for automobile travel as it contains a fine macadam road. The Superior National Forest of Minnesota, which covers 1,250,000 acres and contains 150,000 acres of lakes, is becoming very popular. It is called. "the land of ten thousand lakes." One can travel in a canoe through this forest for a month at a time without passing over the same lake twice. Other popular national forests are the Angeles in southern California, the Pike and Colorado in Colorado, and the Oregon and Wenatchee the Pacific Northwest. Visitors to these forests total more than 1,750,000 a year.

The western forests are also being used for winter sports. They furnish excellent conditions for snow-shoe trips, skiing and sledding. The people who have camps on government land use their places for week-end excursions during the snow season when the roads are passable. The White Mountain National Forest is used more for winter sports than any other government woodland. At many of the towns of New Hampshire and Maine, huge carnivals are held each winter. Championship contests in skiing, snowshoeing, skating, ski jumping, tobogganing and skijoring are held. Snow sport games are also annual events in the Routt, Leadville and Pike National Forests of Colorado. Cross country ski races and skijoring contests are also held. In the Truckee National Forest of California, dog-team races over courses of 25 to 50 miles are held each winter.

About eighty per cent. of the 5,500,000 people who visit the National Forests are automobile tourists. The other twenty per cent. consists of sportsmen interested in hunting, fishing, canoeing, boating, mountain climbing, bathing, riding and hiking. In the Pacific Coast States there are a number of mountain climbing clubs whose members compete with each other in making difficult ascents. The mountaineering clubs of Portland, Oregon, for example, stage an interesting contest each summer in climbing Mount Hood, one of the highest peaks in the country.

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