Our Wonderful History: The CCC

Who do we have to thank for so many of our beautiful state parks? President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, that’s who. And there is an excellent museum to honor those people at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, Florida where we camped last week.

CCC Boys (2)

Highlands Hammock State Park is located in central Florida. As hot as it has been, I was looking for a park with lots of trees. And we were not disappointed by the shade under the beautiful oak hammock there. It’s one of the most beautiful parks we’ve visited.

Canopy (2)

The heat kept most campers away, so we had the 9000-acre park largely to ourselves. Just as I was setting up, however, I looked over and saw people setting fire to the brush. Yes, I had arrived just in time for a controlled burn. And I had a perfect view of the fire.

Burn (2)

Needless to say, my site was too close for comfort, so back to the ranger station I went. They said it had been years since they had a controlled burn in the area, and I just happened by at the right moment.

August 2018 was not providing me with the best camping luck – red tide along the coast on my last outing and now fire and smoke at this central Florida park. The rangers were very accommodating, however, and gave me a spot on the opposite side of the park, as far away from the smoke as I could get. Fortunately for us campers, they kept the fire “controlled” and we had heavy thunderstorms that night to douse the embers. So, all was well.

John S (2)

The next day I walked over to the museum to learn more about the Civilian Conservation Corps that had built the park. I was given a personal tour by the excellent docent, John Schumacher. The displays were extremely well done and John supplied a wealth of additional information about the Depression and Roosevelt’s programs that provided work to lift young men (and their families at home) out of poverty and starvation.

New Deal (2).jpg

America was in the depths of depression in 1933. Immediately after his inauguration, FDR set to work forming the CCC. Under the direction of the US Army, the structure of this enormous program was created in less than two months and recruitment began. Because of the organization and discipline of the Army, detailed records still remain and can be found on the Internet, from blueprints for cabins to ledgers for uniforms and supplies.

Tools 2

At its peak more than 2,900 CCC camps were spread out across America wherever there was a need. Not only did these camps provide work for the corpsmen but requirements for food, clothing, and personal items boosted the American economy and morale by providing jobs in many industries crippled by the Depression. Apparently, most young men came to the camps undernourished and the first order of the day was to improve their nutrition and overall health for their upcoming tasks.

Work photos (2)

The corpsmen planted trees, built campgrounds and wildlife refuges, created roads and bridges, and completed water management projects. Many original log structures built by those young men more than 80 years ago are still in use today, a credit to their skill and workmanship. Below is the campground store at Highlands Hammock that sits across from a similar structure that houses the museum.

Log bldg (2)

During the 9 years of its existence, it is estimated that over 3 million men took part in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Among them, some were destined for fame, including actors Raymond Burr, Robert Mitchum, Walter Matthau, astronaut Chuck Yeager, as well as members of Congress and other leaders in communities across America.

Few could argue that FDR was the right man for the presidency at that terrible time in our history. His Civilian Conservation Corps certainly left us with many outstanding parks. And I was enjoying one of the most beautiful ones. So, my camping trip that started with a controlled burn ended up being a fascinating and educational visit. I highly recommend Highlands Hammock State Park.

Statue

Dedicated to the Young Men of the CCC

 

Some of the photos above are from the display at the museum. In addition, an excellent website is listed below.

The predominantly recognized accomplishments of the CCC:

  • Nearly Three Billion trees were planted to help reforest America
  • Modern tenets of conservation are an outgrowth of the conservation work begun by the CCC.
  • Forest fire fighting methods were developed under the CCC program to meet the needs of controlling wild fires that kept the land from healing and naturally restoring the watersheds.
  • The modern service corps movement in America today is founded on the  Corps concept of the CCC.  Nurtured by CCC alumni and their supporters, modern conservation corps are expanding and contributing to American youth and culture.
  • Constructed public roadways and buildings. Today citizens still drive on roadways built by the men of the CCC.  Vast expanses of public land are connected through scenic byways and fire trails.  Lodges, cabins, picnic pavilions, and many other recreational structures still stand as a testament to the craftsmanship and design of the CCC program.  One of the most recognizable examples of a scenic road in the central eastern United States is the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park.
  • Soil conservation was taught to private citizens as well as implemented on government land. The dust bowl of the Great Plains hampered agricultural output for many years.
  • The development of the infrastructure of the outdoor recreational system is attributed to the CCC program.  Most state park systems we started through the CCC program with an estimated 800 parks constructed across the nation.  The National Parks and the National Forest systems received great benefit and still proclaim the vast legacy of CCC labor.
  • Built and operated fish hatcheries which replenished the species killed by unfavorable conservation practices.
  • Reintroduced wildlife to depleted area. In many areas wildlife was hard hit due to the devastation of their habitat.  Some camps were involved in  research and many more were tasked with the reintroduction and monitoring of wildlife.
  • Military style camp life developed citizens that supported the WWII manpower effort.
  • The boys supported their families by earning $30 monthly through the distribution of a $25 financial allotment to home.
  • Advanced the standard of living in surrounding communities due to the infusion of revenue amounting to as much as $5,000 a month.

http://www.ccclegacy.org/ccc_legacy.html

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Our Wonderful History: The CCC

  1. Karen Ruberry August 24, 2018 / 6:26 pm

    Very interesting. When our kids were young we didn’t take expensive vacations. They went to Catholic school, so we had three tuitions to pay. We would spend a week in a cabin at a state park in Maryland. One of the most beautiful parks we stayed at was New Germany. The cabins there were large with lofts for sleeping, huge fireplaces, bathrooms and kitchens. The cabins were built on the mountainside during the Depression by the CCC. There was a lake for swimming, fishing and boating. It was my favorite place to vacation back then.

    Liked by 1 person

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