The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one such program, and ran from 1933 until its funding and manpower were diverted to the American WWII effort, in 1942. The CCC was run in part by the U.S. Army, and as such was playfully dubbed “Roosevelt’s Tree Army.” In truth, the CCC was perhaps, not-so-secretly, Roosevelt’s favorite program and it became hugely popular with the general citizenry. In its nine years, the CCC would train and employ some three million American men between the ages of 17 and 28 who were put to work across the United States building infrastructure and establishing, amongst other things, what is now our fantastic and beautiful network of state and national parks. Below is a list of parks still touched by this bright legacy that park-goers can enjoy today.
Longhorn Cavern State Park Burnet, TX
Not only are there amazing rock formations and a stunning natural bridge at this state park, but all of the park’s features and experiences have been highlighted by the careful planning of CCC engineers and carried out dutifully by the corpsmen. The CCC cleaned out the main cavern in 1937, which entailed manually removing debris and guano from its base and tunnels. The workers then built a winsome stairway and installed lighting along a couple of miles of the underground passageways. The experience at this park would not be as enthralling were it not for the clever resourcefulness and dedication of the men of the CCC.
Guernsey State Park Guernsey, WY
This park is one of the best examples of extant CCC construction around. It features many trails, roads, structures, buildings, and even the remnants of a CCC-designed 9-hole golf course, which was abandoned in the 1940s. Perhaps best of all, in addition to the elegant and rugged CCC architecture and facilities, visitors to the park can also gain ten points in the Pocket Ranger® Park Passport GeoChallenge through April 2016.
Koke’e State Park Waimea, Kaua’i, HI
The reach of the CCC even extends across the Pacific to the island state of Hawai’i. At Koke’e State Park, the CCC’s compound was built and in use by 1935 and is still a functional park of the park’s experience today.
Tishomingo State Park Tishomingo, MS
The CCC’s presence is still quite present at Tishomingo State Park. Several of the park features are named for the CCC companies that established the majority of the park’s gorgeous facilities in northeastern Mississippi. Among them are trails, a pond, a “swinging bridge,” several pavilions, and the remnants of the camp the corpsmen used through their tenure at the park. As a bonus for history or pre-history buffs, there are Paleoindian artifacts from as long ago as 7000 B.C.E. as well as rock formations that give the park an air of the ancient.Nearly 80 years later, the importance and lasting impact of the program cannot be overstated. While the CCC was in its heyday, approximately three billion trees were planted. Over 200 million of those were planted in the areas hit hardest by drought and windstorms in the Midwest. In just the first year of those trees’ presence, the amount of the rich soil being blown away reduced immensely. In addition to the trees, educational programs were offered regarding soil erosion and animal husbandry that, along with the end of the drought, helped the farmers and their families establish their livelihoods again—and keep them. Modern wildfire fighting and wildfire prevention also have roots in the program, and today’s land and wildlife management owes much to the men who built roads, blazed trails, planted forests, dug ditches and canals, and generally made headway for the many and varied ways we enjoy the natural splendor of our country today—including Pocket Ranger® apps!