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Rocky Mountain National Park History

Cultural resources in Rocky Mountain National Park include historic structures (such as roads and bridges, cultural landscapes, prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, museum artifacts, and historic buildings and trails. The park also works with Native American groups to understand and protect those resources in the park that are important to native cultures.When Congress passed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act in 1915, the legislators focused on Rocky's scenic and natural wonders. Still, what became the park held many cultural treasures including ancient trails, game drives, cattle ranches, and lodges. Early Superintendents tried to develop roads, backcountry cabins, and trails to blend with the surroundings. Rangers manipulated the landscape to look more natural; they suppressed fires, planted seedlings, and controlled predators. The National Park Service purchased private lands and removed buildings, roads, post offices, driveways, irrigation ditches, and fences.

After World War II, with park visitation increasing across the country, the National Park Service implemented Mission 66, a nationwide development and improvement program. Rocky, like many parks, suffered from outdated facilities. Mission 66 brought new comfort stations, overlooks, employee housing, campgrounds, and visitor centers to Rocky Mountain National Park. During the 1960's, as cultural revolutions swept the nation, Congress passed significant environmental laws to protect the American landscape. Many of these effected the management of both natural and cultural resources in the National Parks. Every year, more cultural resources are identified and protected in Rocky Mountain National Park. Today a team of cultural and natural resource specialists work together to protect the park's resources.

Every visitor to the park encounters cultural resources: Trail Ridge Road, Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, Holzwarth Trout Lodge, and the Ute Trail are just a few. You are the steward of this national park, its past and its future.

Cultural Resource Laws and Standards

As a federal agency, the National Park Service has a responsibility to maintain and preserve its cultural resources. Numerous cultural resource and environmental laws, proclamations, executive orders, and other regulations protect Rocky Mountain National Park's prehistoric and historic resources. These stewardship duties ensure that sites, landscapes, artifacts, and structures are not inadvertently demolished, substantially altered, or allowed to deteriorate. The National Park Service is required to consult with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at the earliest phase of the planning process to help minimize any possible harm to historic structures.

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