CCC + District 73
I spend a few days a week working in Bryce Canyon National Park, taking people hiking and touring through the stunning landscape. It’s a great job. I get to meet many diverse people from across America and one of the bits I like to share with them includes the impact the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had on this area. The CCC was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs coming after the 1929 stock market crash in an effort to create jobs during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Among other duties, the CCC was responsible for building much of the trail system present in our national parks from Hawaii to Virginia. The CCC’s profound impact on national and state park systems can still be felt today, 85 years after its founding. The program helped elevate an economically challenged nation by putting young, unemployed and unmarried men to work, in turn providing financial help to their families. In addition to being an investment in our National treasures, it provided our young men, working with military-type discipline, skills, training and an opportunity to advance their education while in camp.
Each camp had a number of "Local Experienced Men," or LEMs, who acted as supervisors and trained the recruits in their work. Each camp had an Army commanding officer, chaplain, medical services, teachers, food, and other necessities. After work, the recruits could go to schools operated by the Office of Education where they learned how to read, write. The result was that the CCC was directly responsible for teaching 40,000 illiterate people to read!
Later, after WWII, our National Parks became a place for veterans to go and recuperate both physically and mentally. Eventually families would reunite and experience the natural beauty, seek out places to test their mettle, and learn some of life’s most valuable lessons.
Here in District 73, great investments were also made in the fledgling livestock industry where order and regulation offered hope and direction to local ranchers trying to eke out a living on the arid and rugged land of Southern Utah. The CCC installed stock tanks, corrals and fencing (over 20,000 cedar posts were cut and placed on the range). The CCC built not only bridges and roads but also made “inroads” into our communities helping to create cultural diversity when some of those young men from places like Kentucky and Ohio married local girls from our small towns. In the forests of Utah over three million trees were planted and timber conservation was promoted by helping eradicate “pine beetles” and “Mormon Crickets”.
The list of services provided by the CCC is long. $52 million dollars was spent between 1932 and 1939 alone, helping improve cattle ranching, farming, transportation, water retention, the forests and National Parks of Utah. Our National Parks, Bryce and Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and even the “Road to Boulder”, known now as the world famous Scenic Byway 12, can be credited to the early work of the CCC. Visible in most National parks are tributes and statues commemorating these young men who served our country in it’s time of great need,and who helped to enliven the economy of the states in which they worked. In Utah the CCC also helped to conserve some of our state’s most beautiful landscapes and make them more hospitable in which to live and work.