Page:Olmsted report on Portland, Oregon parks, 1903.djvu/19

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31
REPORT OF THE PARK BOARD

The reason tor this is, of course, that the majority of the members of the city government is composed of practical politicians or of men who have about the same education, the same impulses and ideas and about the same taste. It should be clearly understood that, as in the cases of gardeners and civil engineers already touched upon, no blame is meant to be cast upon practical politicians. It is simply a fact that when they control the management of parks, the results attained from the point of view of art are poor, sometimes very bad indeed.

Parks, like public libraries and art museums, must meet the public needs in the main, else they will lose their power for educating the people to better things, but they should be managed by wise and public spirited men who have high ideals and who will strive to gradually and considerately improve the public taste. The people can be led toward higher ideals, but they must in the main be led unconsciously and by force of example rather than by scolding. It is in this direction that the managers of parks, libraries and art museums can do much good or, on the contrary, can work much evil in matters of taste.

Parks should not be brought into politics not only tor the important business reasons that apply in all departments of municipal administration, but for the more important reason that the essential requirement of parks is that they should be naturally and artistically beautiful and because politicians as a class give small consideration to matters of art and beauty of natural scenery and care less whenever they conflict with their business interests. The schools may not be beautiful, but yet may serve all practical purposes; bridges may be and usually are hideous, but we can use them and hope for better things some day, but if parks are not beautiful, they are very nearly useless.

Politicians, as a class, work as hard for power and pecuniary success as any other class of business men, but like most business men, especially retailers, they do not waste much time or money in trying to inspire the masses with high ideals or in improving and refining their taste. Politicians do not make good park commissioners, not alone because they are not good judges of landscape beauty, but because they are strongly biased in the direction of deciding every question in the way that will gain them and their party friends and votes, and because they will inevitably sacrifice what seems to them such trivial things as matters of appearance to oblige people who generally have some personal or selfish or party end in view. The number of cases that arise in park administration in which a politician will decide contrary to the requirements of good taste are far more numerous than anyone who has not had long experience of park matters could imagine, or believe if told.