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Natural Selections

Natural Selections: National Parks in Atlantic Canada, 1935-1970

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Natural Selections
    Book Description:

    Natural Selections traces the history of the first four parks in Atlantic Canada through the selection, expropriation, development, and management stages. Alan MacEachern shows how the Parks Branch's preconceptions about the landscape and people of the region shaped the parks created there. In doing so he details the evolution of the park system, from the conservation movement early in the century to the rise of the ecology movement. MacEachern analyzes Parks Canada's efforts to fulfill its twin mandates of preservation and use, arguing that the agency never favoured one over the other but oscillated between more or less interventionist in ensuring both.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6901-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Photos and Maps
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Introduction: A Walk at Herring Cove
    (pp. 3-22)

    On a cool September day in 1994, Ann Keith and her husband Dan led me down to Herring Cove, just west of Alma, New Brunswick. Ann is a fit, lively woman; it is hard to believe she spent two summers at cottages here sixty years ago, hoping the Bay of Fundy air would cure her whooping cough. She showed me relics from those times. Coins from Norwegian sailors. A grainy image of the stevedores’ bunkhouse perched at the water’s edge. A 1934 letter asking her mother to send the cat. We clambered on the treed banks like children or archaeologists,...


    • 2 James Harkin and the National Parks Branch
      (pp. 25-46)

      In June of 1911, the minister of the interior, Frank Oliver, called his private secretary, James Bernard (“Bunny”) Harkin, into his office and offered him a new job. The government was setting up a separate branch to oversee national parks, and Harkin was asked to be its commissioner. In his memoirs, Harkin would write, “Overcome by surprise I could only say that I doubted my ability since I knew nothing about the parks or what would be expected of me. ‘All the better,’ he [Oliver] said, in his laconic way, ’ You won’t be hampered by preconceived ideas and you...

    • 3 Sublimity by the Sea: Establishing Cape Breton Highlands National Park, ca. 1936
      (pp. 47-72)

      In the fall of 1934, R.W. Cautley, chief surveyor for the National Parks Branch, travelled to Nova Scotia to scout out locations for a potential national park site. R.B. Bennett was still prime minister, and there were no immediate plans to create a Nova Scotia park, but the federal department bowed to the provincial government’s request that a suitable future site be found. Cautley drove down from Ottawa in his own car, one specially suited to fit his six-foot-six frame. Commissioner James Harkin had given him a checklist of qualities that any park would be expected to possess: accessibility, potential...

    • 4 The Greening of Green Gables: Establishing Prince Edward Island National Park, ca. 1936
      (pp. 73-97)

      Green Gables did not have green gables. When the National Parks Branch took over the land which would become Prince Edward Island National Park in 1936, and with it the farmhouse that had inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write the children’s classicAnne of Green Gables, there was no paint on the house, just whitewash, and no trim of any colour. Inspecting the recent acquisition, parks surveyor R.W. Cautley wrote his superiors that “While the exterior does not actually need painting, the present colour scheme is not altogether suitable, and it would accordingly be desirable to repaint the building at...

    • 5 Suburbia Comes to the Forest: Establishing Fundy National Park, ca. 1947
      (pp. 98-125)

      Drive through the village of Alma, New Brunswick, cross the bridge, and climb the short hill into Fundy National Park. The park headquarters is the sandstone cottage on your right at the intersection ahead, but take the road to the left, the one that runs along the coast. Pull over alongside McLaren’s Pond, with the natural amphitheatre behind it. There are woods off to the right, but here on the tableland, the grass is lawn-cut for acres around and flowers are everywhere planted in great arrangements. Look back to your left, to more mown grass leading to the trees lining...

    • 6 Sawed-off, Hammered-down, Chopped-up: Establishing Terra Nova National Park, ca. 1957
      (pp. 126-152)

      Created just ten years after Fundy, Newfoundland’s Terra Nova National Park seemed to signal a rapidly evolving National Park s Branch. It was a new park for a new province and a new sort of Atlantic park. Park documents show it to have been chosen more forits typical Newfoundlandscape than in honour of any more formal aesthetic standard. Its blending of land and sea was considered fine in itself, and its bogs, its miles of spruce and fir forests, its inaccessible islands and dark shorelines, and its sometimes dismal views never threatened its creation. Plans were in place to do...


    • 7 Accommodations and Concessions: Use in Four National Parks, 1935–65
      (pp. 155-188)

      When the proposed National Parks Act was under discussion in the House of Commons in 1930, Conservative member George Gibson Coote complained that the bill’s wording was unnecessarily grand. Why was the old clause that the parks “shall be maintained and made use of … for the benefit, advantage and enjoyment of the people of Canada” replaced with the “high sounding” statement, “The parks are hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education, and enjoyment”? And more than this, Coote said, “I do not think it is possible for us to control the actions of future generations....

    • 8 Changing Ecologies: Preservation in Four National Parks, 1935–65
      (pp. 189-228)

      The period 1935 to 1965 is an interesting one for studying Canadian national parks, if only because so little is supposed to have happened then. Most park histories offer only a pause between the 1930 Parks Act and the rise of environmental interest in parks in the 1960s. Kevin McNamee’s twenty-five-page “From Wild Places to Endangered Spaces: A History of Canada’s National Parks,” for example, gives these years two small paragraphs.¹ A central reason for this neglect is that the system did not grow much in these decades: the only new parks were the four Atlantic Canada ones. There was...

    • 9 Conclusion
      (pp. 229-240)

      While staff did the day-to-day work of maintaining Cape Breton Highlands, Prince Edward Island, Fundy, and Terra Nova national parks for the benefit of all Canadians, one group of Canadians paid special attention. Local residents, particularly those who had land expropriated, were the national parks’ most observant critics. They knew that the parks were not in fact pristine wilderness and they perceptively drew out the inconsistencies of park policy. Of course, what made local residents so astute also made them less than objective. Many locals felt that the park belonged to them, either because they personally had lost land at...

  8. Appendices
    (pp. 241-244)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 245-304)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-322)
  11. Index
    (pp. 323-328)