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What Was The CCC?

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a work relief program that gave millions of young men employment on environmental projects during the Great Depression. Included among those millions of young men, was my dad...

There are monuments and statues dedicated to the CCC and its alumni dotting parks across the country. We came across one of those monuments and statues on a recent trip to Kansas. We walked the grounds of what was once Camp Co. 788, located at Crawford State Park, where the CCC helped to build an earth fill dam and roads back in the late 1930s. Unbeknown to me at the time, this was the camp where my dad spent 18 months. Camp Co. 788 has a small museum located in the old water tower and many markers and exhibits along the Memorial Trail.

The CCC ran from March of 1933 to June of 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men ages 18–25. It was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" program that supplied manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.

General Douglas McArthur was in charge of the program and Army Reserve officers were in charge of more than 4,000 camps, in units of 200 men. There was no military training, just passing a medical physical. The young men were then provided with on-the-job training, shelter, clothing and food, together with a monthly wage of $30 (equivalent to $706 in 2023), $25 of which (equivalent to $588 in 2023) had to be sent home to their families. The camps also had sports teams, a newsletter and recreational activities.

The CCC was most popular with the American people leading to greater public awareness and appreciation of the outdoors and to the nation's natural resources.

In 1942, Congress discontinued funding for the CCC, diverting desperately needed resources to the effort to win World War II. By the time the CCC program ended, "Roosevelt’s Tree Army” had planted more than 3.5 billion trees on land made barren from fires, natural erosion, intensive agriculture or lumbering and constructed trails and shelters in more than 800 parks nationwide during its nine years of existence. This was considered by many to be one of the most successful of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.

The CCC has become a model for future conservation programs. One being the National Civilian Community Corps, part of AmeriCorps – a national service program – which enrolls 18 to 24-year-old men and women for 10-month stints working for non-profit and governmental organizations, often with an environmental purpose.

For more information about the CCC or the AmeriCorp program, check out their websites. Crawford State Park is located at 1 Lake Rd, Farlington, Kansas. For more information call 620-362-3671.

Text and photos by Barbara Oliver

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