Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and the League

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.: Conservation leader, parks pioneer, and Save the Redwoods League Councilor and collaborator.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.: Conservation leader, parks pioneer, and Save the Redwoods League Councilor and collaborator.

I’ll be speaking at the Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Symposium at Stanford University today, on a panel about parks along with California State Parks Director Major General Anthony Jackson and Jack London State Historic Park Executive Director Tjiska Van Wyk.

Surprised to learn there’s a connection between famed landscape architect Olmsted, Jr. and Save the Redwoods League? The relationship between Olmsted and the League actually has a great deal of local and historical significance.

Olmsted and the League’s founders were contemporaries, at an important time in California and U.S. history when the idea of conserving land in parks for everyone to enjoy was just getting off the ground. Those early, cathartic days reflected a sense of passion for the outdoors, and a sense of legacy and consequence.

After leading the campaign to establish a state parks system in 1927, the League enlisted Olmsted to conduct the state parks survey, which would lay out the long-term goals for the system. Olmsted was a respected voice in the conservation community and beyond, and when it came to the philosophy of conservation, he was a visionary.

Olmsted saw parks as having great potential to serve the public. He believed that these wild, scenic places could be deep wells of inspiration and well-being, and that access to them would help all Americans realize our constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness. This vision was crystallized in his state parks survey.

It sounds pie-in-the-sky, but now that we have a robust network of amazing protected lands, we see that these benefits are quite real. People do find calming, joyful and profound experiences in the redwood forest – check out the Yelp reviews for an old-growth redwoods park if you’d like to read some firsthand accounts (try those for Humboldt Redwoods or Redwood National and State Parks). And share your own experience in the comments section below!

Olmsted saw the redwood forests as places of unique value; he would work closely with the League for decades on achieving their protection. In fact, he was on the League’s Council for 29 years, from 1926-1955! His story is tied with our own and, at the symposium today, I’ll be acknowledging all he’s done for the redwoods and for all of us.

Learn more online about the history of the League and redwoods conservation.


Let’s keep in touch on Twitter! Follow me at @SamH4Redwoods for news and insights about redwoods and conservation.

Sources: Engbeck, Joseph H., State Parks of California from 1864 to the present; Shrepfer, Susan, The Fight to Save the Redwoods.


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About Sam Hodder

Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) and Prez of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 25 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.

Photo by  William K. Matthias

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