The legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps lives on in state parks


PITTSBURGH (AP) – America’s 20th-century “army of trees” brought generations of citizens closer to nature’s wonders while enduring the country’s greatest economic crisis.

If the political winds are favorable, new recruits could have the chance to repeat this effort during the current health crisis.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Scranton and the National Wildlife Federation propose the creation of a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps to conserve and restore environmentally threatened sites while putting people who have been slowed down to work. the covid-19 pandemic.

The REVIVE the CCC bill, sponsored by Casey, is modeled on the original Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, which provided jobs for around 3 million unemployed people during the Great Depression. Among them were 194,500 residents of Pennsylvania.

Their efforts included building trails, roads and shelters in more than 800 parks across the country.

Many of these park improvements are still in use today, including 10 cabins that can be rented at Linn Run State Park, a 612-acre outdoor recreation destination in Cook and Ligonier Townships. .

Off Linn Run Road, near the park office, the wood and stone structures were built to last. With a few updates over the years and regular maintenance by park staff, they have remained popular with visitors.

Park Superintendent Corey Snyder noted that an indoor bathroom had been added to one of the cabins, which had been altered to comply with disabled-accessible standards. Each cabin was furnished with basic modern appliances and fitted with an interior fireplace insert to improve heating. The outdoor fireplaces have been closed for security reasons.

“We’re repainting these inserts to keep them jet black,” Snyder said. The five-person maintenance team, which is responsible for two additional neighboring parks, also refurbished the wood floors of several cabins.

“They are in high demand,” he says. “We want to make what is original last. “

The more rustic cabins are served by a modern washhouse with showers and flush toilets.

“It’s a balancing act,” Snyder said. “You want to make the cabins as accessible as possible, but some think the more amenities you add, it can take away from the charm.”

The cabins at CCC have been designed in accordance with an architectural philosophy adopted by the National Park Service, calling for the use of local and natural materials and the placement of structures so that they blend in with the surrounding environment.

But Linn Run’s cabins weren’t cookie-cutter constructions. “They sleep two to eight people,” Snyder said. “It varies from cabin to cabin. They are all a little different.

Fishing and viewing the fall leaves are among the activities that draw visitors to the Linn Run cabins, according to Snyder.

“We have always had a very high booking rate,” he said. “Linn Run, a huge trout stream, passes right by the cabins. It is supplied three times a year.

Also located in the park’s hut colony are two small stone and mortar bridges built by CCC workers.

“It’s all in the same area, which made it really easy to move supplies and equipment,” Snyder said of the Linn Run CCC projects.

“Roosevelt’s Army of Trees”

While working on projects, CCC teams stayed in camps located in parks. Pennsylvania had 151 of these camps, just behind California among the US states.

Three of these camps remain available at Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County, to be booked by groups during the warm season. With approximately 200 structures, Laurel Hill has the largest collection of intact CCC architecture in the state park system.

“They’re pretty rustic,” said Kimberly Peck, environmental education specialist at the park, of the camps, which each have central dining and recreation areas and accommodations for 100 or more people, in cabins. or barracks style buildings.

“People who have rented them have the option of renting them again,” she said, stressing that park guests must provide their own sleeping equipment.

“We have to do some things to renovate them,” she said of the CCC buildings. “There are new roofs on a lot of them.

Another camp structure in the park, adorned with images from the CCC era, has been transformed into a space for educational programs and special events. Its name, Camp Tree Army, reveals an influence of the CCC.

“The CCC was known as Roosevelt’s Army of Trees,” Peck explained.

Laurel Hill, covering 4,062 acres, was one of five recreational demonstration areas in Pennsylvania that caught the attention of CCC teams and were turned into state parks. About 400 young men arrived in July 1935 and built items such as picnic areas, stone fountains, roads, Lake Laurel Hill, and the beach house.

The park offices at Laurel Hill and near Kooser State Park are both wood and stone CCC constructions that have received more modern additions.

“A rather special place”

Kooser, located on 250 acres, is home to nine cabins created by the CCC that can be rented by visitors.

“Some are log and some are wood-walled structures,” Peck said. “Everyone is different.”

“The Jones Mill Run Dam is the most famous piece of CCC architecture we have,” said Peck. Originally built to provide a water supply for CCC workers in Laurel Hill, it is now known for its photogenic waterfall and the wildlife it is home to.

“It has become a pretty special place for the habitat it provides,” she said.

In addition to photos from Camp Tree Army, Laurel Hill pays homage to its CCC roots with a blue and gold historical marker, recently installed at the park entrance by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Near the park’s visitor center, a keystone-shaped plaza surrounds a monument with a bronze statue of a CCC worker.

“You will find this monument all over the country,” Peck said. “We are honored to be one of the places that has it.”

Remains of other CCC camps can be seen in parts of the Forbes State Forest, which spans 59,000 acres in Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset counties.

One of the camps was located in the Blue Hole division of the forest, near Fall Run Road in Middlecreek, Somerset County.

Rachael Mahony, environmental education specialist with Forbes State Forest, noted a construction stand that was used by Boy Scout groups.

“Everything else was demolished in the 1970s,” she said. “It was not maintained.

Other remains of the CCC can be found in the Forbes division of Mount Davis in southern Somerset County.

“There is a picnic pavilion that was built by the CCC,” said Mahony.

A CCC building had been occupied by a carpentry workshop but is now used for storage.

“We installed interpretive signs a few years ago,” she said.


Lateral bar :

Laurel Hill works

Civilian Conservation Corps crews worked in the area that would become Laurel Hill State Park from 1933 to 1942.

During their first two years on the site, they planted 600 trees, 1,500 shrubs and 750 vines.

They also completed:

• 10.5 miles of park roads

• 13 km of trails and footbridges

• 20 pedestrian bridges and a bridge for vehicles

• 2 organized group camps and 1 family camp

• 1 picnic area

• 3 dams

• A 70-acre lake

• 23 water fountains and 19 fireplaces

• 100 picnic tables and benches

• 1 swimming pool


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