Review | How did our national parks come to be? A new book explores their rocky start.

We first meet Olmsted in California, November 1865. He has taken go away from the Civil Warfare and Central Park and accepted a place managing, of all issues, mines within the Sierras. Gov. Frederick Low seats him on the fee overseeing the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of sequoias that the feds have lately ceded to the state. (The time period park was not invoked at this level; and even when it had been, Yosemite was not a nationwide park till 1890.) Olmsted takes it upon himself to draft tips for curation of the virgin valley. Public pursuit of happiness, he proposes, ought to incorporate entry to nature and the salubrity derived therefrom. This was Olmsted’s (and associate Calvert Vaux’s) goal with Central Park, however by necessity its paths and ponds and meadows, nonetheless Arcadian in impact, have been architected. For Yosemite, Olmsted favors (in Drabelle’s phrases) a “hands-off method.”

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