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History of the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Division

The formal development of state parks in the United States began in the early 20th Century and grew out of the National Parks movement. Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872, and the National Park System was established 1916. The concept of natural and scenic public recreation areas became immensely popular and Yosemite, Glacier and the Grand Canyon were soon developed. In 1921, six states met to discuss the concept of state parks at the call of then National Park Service Director Stephen Mather. The first National Conference of State Parks decided that the immediate objectives were to provide conservation of natural and scenic resources and to provide recreational outlets and alleviate excessive pressure on the first national parks. The automobile had opened new opportunities for touring Americans and outstanding natural areas and quiet contemplative spots were suddenly accessible. Auto touring rapidly increased and people sought places to visit, recreate and camp.

State forest lands became an immediate target for this type activity and in 1927, Georgia Senate Resolution #21 stated that, "...the Indian Springs Reserve in the County of Butts ... containing ten (10) acres of land with the spring and improvements thereon, is hereby placed under the jurisdiction and control of the State Board of Forestry, the same to be converted and used for a State Park." Georgia, and the U.S. government, view their forests as agricultural areas where trees are crops to be harvested and renewed. The concept of permanent aesthetic natural areas did not fit into this scheme and Georgia soon established a parks system separate from the Georgia Forestry Division.

The Georgia State Parks System began in 1931, with the reorganization of the State Board of Forestry. The reorganization act created a Commission to administer the Department of Forestry and Geological Development. Under this department, the Forestry Board established two parks; Indian Springs and Vogel which were called, "Forest Parks." This began a system which soon grew to five parks with the addition of Santo Domingo (now Boys Estate) near Hofwyl-Broadfields Plantation), Alexander H. Stephens, Chehaw (currently a local park) and Pine Mountain (now F.D. Roosevelt). In the reorganization of 1937, a Department of Natural Resources was established with four divisions. They were the Division of Forestry, Division of Wild Life, Division of Mines, Mining and Geology and the Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Monuments. Although reorganized on several occasions, this Division is the direct ancestor of the current State Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division.

Read more about our history (PDF)
By Billy Townsend, Chief Historian.

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