By Prof. THOMAS H. MACBRIDE,
OF THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA.
THE title of this article would seen to require little definition. By county parks are meant simply open grounds available for public use in rural districts as are city parks in towns. There is nothing new in the idea; it is simply an effort to call back into public favor the once familiar public "common." This does not, however, refer simply to public land, such as Government land, to be claimed and plundered by the first comer, nor indeed to land to be used by the public indiscriminately at all, but to land devoted to public enjoyment, purely to the public happiness, a holiday ground for country and city folk alike.
The general features which should characterize such public playground as is here discussed will also quickly suggest themselves to any one who chooses at all to consider the matter. In the first place, the county park should be wooded, that it may afford suitable shade and shelter for those who frequent it; it should be well watered, to meet other patent needs; it should be romantic, in order by its attractiveness to be as far as possible efficient. Above all, it must be under wise control, be at all times suitably warded and kept, that its utility be transmitted from generation to generation. All this is plain enough and will be disputed by nobody. It is the intention here to show that such parks are needed, that they are needed now; that they should have the highest scientific value; and that in the eastern United States, at least, they are everywhere practicable.
The necessity for such parks seems to me to be threefold:
1. As directly affecting public health and happiness.
2. For proper education.
3. To preserve to other times and men something of primeval Nature.
Let us consider these points briefly in the order named.
All of us in one way or another know something of the monotonous grind which makes up the lifelong experience of by far the larger number of our fellow-men—on the farm, in the shop, in the mine, day after day, one unceasing round of toil, into which the idea of pleasure or freshness never enters. How many thousands of our fellow-men, tens of thousands of our women, see nothing but the revolving steps of labor's treadmill, day in, day out, winter and summer, year after year, for the whole span of mortal life! This is especially so in the Western States, where the
- Read in part as a paper before the Iowa Academy of Science, January 2, 1896.