Forest Service Recreation Planning

A little-known piece of history took place in the San Isabel National Forest over 75 years ago.

Back then, most "wilderness" recreation took place in national parks. Visitors usually reached the parks by railway. National forests were for harvesting timber and protecting watersheds.

In 1919, the Forest Service hired its first recreation engineer, Arthur Carhart. The landscape architect was offered an annual salary of $1,800.

Carhart’s objective was to produce a magnificent recreation area which will be a pride to the [Forest] service and give in return to the people...the greatest good to the greatest number. Carhart toured the San Isabel National Forest with Forest Supervisor, Hamel. Carhart proposed some radical changes using the San Isabel area as a model for the rest of the nation. Included the concept of integrated planning of new automobile roads to cabins, auto camps, hotels, tent camps, trails, and lookout points for scenic viewing.

Al Hamel encouraged local support for Carhart’s ideas. Pueblo businessmen founded the San Isabel Public Recreation Association (SIPRA). In SIPRA would raise over $200,000 for improvements to forest recreation in the area. SIPRA hired Frank Culley, colleague of Carhart’s, to plan and build Squirrel Creek Crampground. It was the first campground in a National Forest designed specific for recreation. The campground, now ruins, is located on the Squirrel Creek trail between Davenport Campground on Highway 165 and Beulah. Stone foundations and fireplaces are all that remain. In the 1920s, just as today, many people started their camping vacation in Pueblo.