It therefore results that the enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.
Men who are rich enough (…) can and do provide places of this needed recreation for themselves. They have done so from the earliest periods known in the history of the world, for the great men (…) had their rural retreats (…) private parks and notable grounds devoted to luxury and recreation (…) The enjoyment of the choicest natural scenes in the country and the means of recreation connected with them is thus a monopoly, in a very peculiar manner, of a very few, very rich people. The great mass of society, including those to whom it would be of the greatest benefit, is excluded from it (…).
Thus without means are taken by government to withhold them from the grasp of individuals, all places favorable in scenery to the recreation of the mind and body will be closed against the great body of the people. For the same reason that the water of rivers should be guarded against private appropriation and (…) obstruction, portions of natural scenery may therefore properly be guarded and cared for by government. To simply reserve them from monopoly by individuals, however, it will be obvious, is not all that is necessary. It is necessary that they should be laid open to the use of the body of the people.
The establishment by government of great public grounds for the free enjoyment of the people under certain circumstances, is thus justified and enforced as a political duty.
Seeking for the declaration of the first National Park, the protection of Yosemite Valley is presented as the democratization of the freeing values of untouched natural scenery. Is not a question about a freedom shaped by the God’s work, but to the contrary, a freedom born in the absence of society’s transformation of the world. So, Olmsted fosters and uses a big American tradition that goes from Emerson and Thoreau to nowadays. From this point of view, nature is seen as a relief for the mind itself of an essential evil: society and the city. This puts all the rest of Olmsted’s work in a troubled position because living in the city become something that must be regulated and controlled in the times of the big urban growth, and be paradoxically defended by uneducated people, the ones that come from natural contexts (see Landscape as an Instrument of Social Order)
Apple, Os X Yosemite Image (2014)
Header: Ansel Adams, Clearing Winter Storm (1937)