Monday, March 3, 2014

Lasting Legacy of the CCC

At the Forest History Center on State Street in Salem there stands a life-size statue of a hunky, shirtless, young man leaning on a shovel. 
CCC Worker Statue
He is posed in front of a wooden, green building with a pair of gables and twin dormer windows. Their connection is a federal program initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after his inauguration to provide jobs for the nation’s growing number of unemployed young men.

Known as the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, it operated between 1933 and 1942, and was one of the most successful and popular New Deal programs.  Oregon was an active participant with over 60 camps scattered around the state. The men built roads, bridges, trails, campgrounds, fought forest fires, and planted trees. In exchange for their labor, they received education, job training, food and shelter (three hots and a cot) and the grand sum of $30 a month. They could keep $5 with the other $25 sent home to their families.  Even though eighty years have passed and many CCC efforts are long gone, about one-third of the permanent projects in Oregon remain and can still be enjoyed in forests and parks around the state.
Forest History Center, Salem

The Forest History Center is a good place to begin. The building was constructed by the CCC in 1936 to house their headquarters, and was moved to its present location from the east side of Mill Creek in 2001. Today, a section of the museum is dedicated to the CCC program and features camp photos, a wall map with site locations, and miscellaneous memorabilia donated by alumni. The CCC Worker Memorial Statue in front was dedicated in 2002.

Silver Falls Lodge
One of the program’s permanent projects is a short distance east of Salem at Silver Falls State Park. The CCC was responsible for constructing much of the infrastructure seen in the South Falls Day Use Area including rocks walls, bridges, stairs and the rustic South Falls Lodge. The lodge and surrounding ten acres are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the CCC developed the park’s popular Trail of the Ten Falls.

West Shelter, Cape Perpetua
The Oregon Coast hosted several CCC camps, and remnants of Camp Cape Creek remain visible on the site of the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, two miles south of Yachats.  Workers here built the campground and network of trails, but their most noted accomplishment was the West Shelter observation point at the top of the headland. Built of rocks, this sturdy structure has survived years of Pacific storms and even served as a coastal watch station during World War II.  Today’s visitors are more interested in spotting migrating whales than enemy boats or planes.

Mt. Hood National Forest, east of Portland, also saw many CCC projects. Camp Zigzag on Highway 26, was the longest running camp in the Northwest, and its workers built the Zigzag Ranger Station on the south side of the road. This compound consisting of various outbuildings is constructed in the Cascadian Rustic style using natural materials such as wood shingles, weatherboard, and native stone.  A similar, but more off-the-beaten-path ranger station can be visited on Forest Road 42, about 20 miles southeast of Government Camp. Here, at the Clackamas Lake Historic Ranger Station, are eleven buildings including a small visitor center. The ranger’s residence was built by the CCC in 1933 and is available for rental during the summer months.

Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge, probably the best known Depression-era project in Oregon, was constructed by the WPA, but the CCC worked on the lodge’s terracing, stonework, and landscaping. They built the Timberline Trail encircling Mt. Hood and worked on a variety of other projects in the area including Cloud Cap Inn and several campgrounds.

Malheur Nat'l Wildlife Visitor Center
In other parts of the state you’ll find evidence of the CCC at Crater Lake’s Rim Road and Rim Village, the rock work at Oregon Cave’s Chateau, the Visitor Center and Museum at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Jessie Honeymoon State Park near Florence, and the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit of McKenzie Pass.

The CCC program lasted only nine years.  By 1942, the country was gearing up for WWII and young men were leaving to join the army.  However, their hard work through those difficult Depression years left a significant contribution and lasting legacy to Oregon’s public lands.




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