There has been an interest in maintaining areas for public use and enjoyment in Oregon since the earliest years of statehood. One of the first examples of private land being set aside for public use was in 1871 with the donation of Sodaville Mineral Springs by Thomas Summers. In 1921, the Oregon State Parks System was established as a function of the Oregon State Highway Department and the Oregon State Highway Commission. These agencies guided the Oregon State Parks System from 1921 through 1989, when the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department was established.
State Parks in Oregon grew rapidly in the 1920s. Beginning in 1921, the Highway Commission was authorized to acquire the rights-of-way within 300 feet of highway center lines, which is documented in this collection. In 1925, Oregon State legislation allowed acquisition of areas beyond the 300 feet from centerline to create larger park areas. These efforts soon faded as the Depression took hold and made funds for further park development scarce. However, federal government programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps assisted in maintaining and improving state parks when state funding was limited during the 1930s.
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