A hundred years ago the US Forest Service considered putting cabins around a pristine lake in western Colorado. But thanks to a young landscape architect named Arthur Carhart, Trappers Lake stayed undeveloped and the concept of protected wilderness was born.
Hired as the first US Forest Service landscape architect on March 1, 1919, he was sent just a few months later to look at Trappers Lake as a possible spot for development. While he was there he met a couple of outdoorsmen camping at Trappers Lake.
“One night they got me in the cook tent and we argued from about nine until about two o’clock in the morning about the question of putting the cottages around the lake,their argument was the precious qualities of this lake belong to all the people and it’s a basic principle of wilderness against any other use whatever,” Carhart said.
Later that year he wrote to Aldo Leopold, “There is a limit to the number of lands of shoreline on the lakes; there is a limit to the number of lakes in existence; there is a limit to the mountainous areas of the world, and . . . there are portions of natural scenic beauty which are God-made, and . . . which of a right should be the property of all people.”
Retired Forest Service Chief Landscape Architect Jim Bedwell of Denver said Carhart also recognized the need for outdoor recreation infrastructure on public lands. Carhart wrote the forest service’s first recreation master plan. It was for the San Isabel National Forest west of Pueblo. Hear more about Carhart and his legacy: listen to Bedwell’s conversation with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner on the Colorado Matters podcast.