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History of OPRD
Land to Legacy
Talk to anyone in Oregon and you will eventually hear about their love affair with this place. Whether you are a 10th generation Oregonian, moved here last year, or visited the state for a vacation, the place takes a hold of all of us in a thousand ways.
The story you're about to see is about how Oregon State Parks came to define that special relationship with the outdoors for so many people in Oregon. How it came to connect us to our natural environment, and to our culture. How it got its start, how it has grown up, and what it means in the life of the people here.
This three-part video (approximately four minutes each)  tells the story of how Oregon State Parks grew from a few highway waysides into the renowned park system we have today.
Land to Legacy


Silver Falls State Park - 1921 
Milestones in OPRD history
Oregon State Parks is "born" as part of Oregon's highway system.
Land for Oregon's first state park, Sarah Helmick State Park, is deeded to the state. 
Samuel H. Boardman is appointed state parks superintendent. The "father of Oregon State Parks" adds more than 50,000 acres of new parkland in the 21 years that follow. 
Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) era begins. This massive, Depression-era relief work builds roads, trails & buildings at 45 state parks.
Postwar recreation demands lead to developed campgrounds in 27 parks across the state.
First permanent State Parks Advisory Committee established. Uniforms for rangers appear.
The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1964 brings grant administration, widespread planning responsibilities to Parks.
Oregon Beach Bill. Parks later assumes responsibility for ocean shoreline.
State Historic Preservation Office created.
Oregon Scenic Waterways Act passed.
Friends of Tryon Creek State Park becomes the first (unofficial) “friends group” in Oregon.
Parks takes on responsibility for statewide recreational trails system.
Mail-in reservations begin.
Willamette River Greenway program introduced. First master plan by park staff written (Bowers Rocks State Park).
Volunteer hosts become an organized part of Parks.
Parks funding from gas tax abolished.
Seasonal day-use fees introduced at 21 parks.
Legislation enabling Friends Groups is passed.
Legislation creates Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
Discovery Season (discounts on camping in spring and fall) introduced.
Oregon Heritage Commission added.
New, centralized reservation call center opens in Portland. Replaces mail-in reservations.
Chronic financial pressure forces the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission to consider closing some 64 properties. Emergency funding from the Legislature averts the crisis.
Measure 66 passes. Dedicates Lottery funds to State Parks for grants, new parks and infrastructure repair. Funds end in 2014, unless voters reauthorize.
Oregon celebrates its first State Parks Day, the first Saturday in June.
ATV permits and grants move to Parks. Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries also added.
Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission adopts “Target 2014” goals. Spells out business direction for Lottery dollars.
Governor Ted Kulongoski announces park-a-year initiative.
Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center becomes part of OPRD.
Stub Stewart State Park opens. It is the first new park/campground to open in 30 years.
Parks takes on responsibility for Capitol Mall grounds.
 Silver Falls State Park - 1921

Additional resources
Centennial Horizon

The state park system will be a century old in 2022. In these last hundred years, Oregonians have toiled to build a park system Oregonians can regard with pride. But what's next? What will the park system look like as it approaches its centennial, and what will the next 100 years look like? What is our ideal future? What will it take to get there?
2022: One hundred years of special places
Information listed below available through the
 Oregon State Library Online Catalog
Oregon's Highway Park System, 1921-1989 : An Administrative History (1992)
Oregon State Parks : History, 1917-1963 / compiled by Chester H. Armstrong  (1965)