Sunday, November 23, 2008

Remembering the WPA


My family camped for vacations. Dad wanted to get away from his high pressure job and the telephone (no cell phones in those days) and so we took to the highways and byways of the mountain west and camped.

He often would point out that this trail or that camp ground had been built by labor during the depression when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt developed the WPA to put people standing in bread lines back to work.

The Blue Ridge Parkway that runs along the Appalachians in the eastern part of the United States is a great example of what the WPA accomplished. Not only did it put people living in that area to work but to this day the parkway allows an economic flow that has preserved the native crafts and culture of that area. The art trail we are setting up her in New Mexico is modeled after one set up by benefit of this parkway built over 70 years ago. Its stone bridges and retaining walls and restored mills and waterways are beautiful and lasting.

Here in the mountain west the WPA worked on many parks creating trails and overlooks that made their beauties more accessable to the public. The closest example to me is the Wild Rivers Park at the junction of the Red River and the Rio Grande. A system of trails allows visitors to hike down switchbacks to the bottom of the Rio Grande gorge some 600 feet below the scenic overlooks at the top. Remote campsites at the bottom allow hikers to over-night away from the maddening crowds. A group of volunteers goes out every spring to do trail maintenance but the original WPA work has lasted.

Today because of Bush cutbacks the National Park Service originally created by the giving of land by Rockefeller and other railroad magnants is suffering. Facilities are in need of repair to the point that on my recent roadtrips with my sister we have chosen to stay at state parks which are better funded.

The Bush administration has chosen to focus on foreign countries and exporting of jobs and resourses away from the United States. Our national parks are crumbling, our infrastructure is deteriorating, and the economy was built on a tissue of lies that is now going up in flames. President elect Obama proposes to rescue our economy by returning the US governments focus back to our own shores.

“We’ll be working out the details in the weeks ahead,” Mr. Obama said about his economic stimulus package, “but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.”

It looks to be the modern version of Roosevelt's WPA. I certainly hope the effects of it last as long as the Blue Ridge Parkway. And that generations to come look back and point at the accomplishments yet to be achieved by this new era.