CCC projects still visible after 70 years

Friday, June 20, 2003

As time erodes personal memories of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the legacy of this Depression-era work program continues to be deeply etched into the landscape of America.

Briefly, the CCC was created during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first administration to put hundreds of thousands of jobless men to work. Over the next nine years, CCC laborers built 97,000 miles of roads, erected 3,470 fire towers, devoted more than 4.2 million man-days to fighting fires and planted more than 3 billion trees. Their handiwork is seen in public buildings and state and national parks across the land.

One aspect of these huge work force was its pay system. Workers were allowed to keep only a few dollars of their monthly pay of about $30. The rest was sent to the workers' families who often depended entirely on this income to survive.

By the time the Great Depression was over and World War II had begun, the nation had shored up its economy. It is difficult to imagine how history might have been changed without the CCC.

One major CCC project in Southeast Missouri was the development of the Big Springs area near Van Buren, Mo. The spring and surrounding park is one of the most beautiful and interesting natural wonders in the country. About 1.5 million visitors go there ever year. What they see is largely the result of CCC labor that began 70 years ago.

What a fitting tribute to the CCC's hard work.

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