Lounging in the 60s

Mission 66 Overview


1955 - 1966


What was Mission 66?

Mission 66 was a response to disrepair in the national parks due to increased visitation and an ever-shrinking budget. By 1955, visitation in the parks had grown to fifty million people, more than twice the amount in 1946 (National Park Service, 1956; Cox, 1960).  Prior to Mission 66, funds were approved on a case-by-case basis for improvement projects in the National Park Service.  This created a system that prioritized patch jobs over complete solutions (Monroe, 1986).  
Mission 66 was a ten-year project to completely overhaul the national parks and preserve them for the enjoyment of the public. Some of the improvements to the National Park Service included employee training and housing, trail and road maintenance, and building visitor centers, including the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park (National Park Service, 1956).  Mission 66 was also a way to facilitate the visitor experience.  This can be seen in the visitor centers built in the parks during Mission 66.


Mission 66 as Movement

The trend throughout the United States after World War II and the beginning of Mission 66 was movement.  Movement through the United States, movement through social classes, and movement through the National Parks. Visitor centers built in each park were meant to facilitate that movement. The visitor centers were not designed to be places of refuge where visitors would stay for extended periods of time.  They were meant to be pit stops primarily, places to gather information and rest weary feet.  The furniture in the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center at Rocky Mountain National Park exemplifies this movement. Designed along simple lines and without much consideration for comfort, the furniture in the visitor center does not invite long stays. It is meant to invite the visitors to continue into the park, to enjoy and consume that which has been preserved for them.


Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration

To understand Mission 66, one must understand the programs that came before: the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) (Carr, 2007).  President Franklin D. Roosevelt created these programs in an effort to stimulate the economy and decrease national unemployment. Some of the projects initiated during this period - from the early 1930s to early 1940s - were aimed at improving the National Park System, including building roads, entrance stations, and campgrounds (Carr, 2007).

National Park Service during World War II

World War II severely impacted the National Park Service. The CCC and WPA were gradually defunded and eventually their programs were stopped altogether. With funds needed elsewhere to fight the war, the budget for the Park Service stagnated. Adjusted for inflation, the budget was lower in the 1940s and 1950s than it was in the 1930s (Carr, 2007). With units continually added to the National Park Service, the budget was strained to the point where it became impossible to maintain the national parks and park units properly.  Additionally, the Truman administration favored allocating funds towards projects that built dams and promoted economic growth rather than the conservation of the parks.


National Park Service after World War II

The National Park Service was responsible for protecting and maintaining for public consumption one hundred and seventy-eight parks, memorials, and other units in 1956 (Noll, 1997).  This amounted to approximately twenty-four million acres of territory throughout the United States under the control of the National Park Service by 1956 (Noll, 1997). Visitation to the parks occurred in numbers never before seen.  With a shrinking budget, growing acreage, and increased visitation, the National Park Service was unable to adequately maintain and protect the units under their direction.  he parks fell into disrepair and it became dangerous for visitors to move through the parks. To solve this problem, Conrad Wirth, director of the National Park Service, directed a small committee to find a solution.  Mission 66 was conceived, proposed, and accepted by Congress in 1956.


Mission 66 Budget

Director Conrad Wirth proposed a budget of $786 million for the ten-year project to be used for land acquisition, road and trail improvements, and employee training and housing. By the end of the program in 1966, the budget had grown to $985 million (Noll, 1997).  Each year Congress had to approve the funds for the program, meaning Mission 66 was continually under threat of being shut down if the program did not deliver on its promises or if Congress no longer saw the value of the program.


Related Objects to Explore

Brass Floor Ashtray; Kreuger Stackable Folding Metal Chair; Oak Arm Chair; Oak Bench; Standing Floor Ashtray; Table-top Ashtray; Trash Can; Two-Seat Oak Bench

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