This presentation was part of A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.

Presentation Video and Transcript

By Tim Davis


Park road preservation is one of the most contentious issues facing NPS facilities managers, designers, planners, and cultural resources personnel today. From Glacier and Yellowstone to Antietam, Blue Ridge Parkway, and myriad other units, historical values have been threatened by ostensibly irrefutable appeals to safety and efficiency. Considerable progress has been made in enhancing collaboration between landscape architects, preservationists, engineers, and pragmatically-oriented managers, but there is considerable room for improvement. This presentation will trace the rising interest in historic road preservation over the past few decades, highlighting key projects, showcasing successful practices, and addressing promising new developments such as the highway engineering community’s embrace of risk calculation models that are more conducive to preserving the unique qualities of national park roads. It will also trace the roots of NPS road preservation, demonstrating that efforts to retain historic park road qualities began much earlier than is generally known and played a vital role in some of the most significant debates and developments in NPS history.


Tim Davis is the lead historian for National Park Service’s Park Historic Structures & Cultural Landscapes Program. He has been heavily involved in park road preservation issues, writing and supervising numerous Historic American Engineering Record studies, curating the National Building Museum exhibition Lying Lightly on the Land: Building America’s National Park Roads, and editing America’s National Park Roads: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record. He also wrote Landscape Line 16, the official guide to preparing Cultural Landscape Reports on historic roads. The University of Virginia Press is publishing his comprehensive study National Park Roads: A Legacy in the American Landscape later in 2016.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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