A Legacy of Stewardship
Stewardship of the environment is a concept that land is a resource. As citizens it is our responsibility to wisely manage that resource. It is also our collective commitment to future generations for the condition of that resource when we leave it.
More than 75 years ago the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program was created, contributing to this legacy of environmental stewardship. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) continues to honor this legacy of stewardship through civic engagement, events and programs, archives and celebrations, to keep alive the pledge of the CCC to preserve and protect our shared natural heritage.
New Deal Program
In 1933, in the height of the Great Depression, one of newly inaugurated President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first New Deal initiatives was the establishment of the Emergency Conservation Work Act (ECW), popularly known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) This federal economic relief and conservation program provided jobs for unemployed young men and veterans to support their families, while at the same time focused on improving the nation’s open space and recreational resources.
The CCC program in Massachusetts from 1933-1942, was concerned with improvement and development of state park resources. During that period approximately 68 camps enrolled nearly 100,000 men. The CCC not only touched the lives of these enrollees and their families, but also left a lasting legacy of forest improvements and recreational resources throughout the state that are still evident today.
When the CCC was established in 1933, the Massachusetts State Parks system was in its infancy. Most of the state forests were cut-over land acquired for less than $5 per acre. Many were largely inaccessible due to lack of roads and there were almost no recreational facilities. Seventy-five years later, the work of the CCC still forms the cornerstones of the system as we know it today. Roads, trails, ponds, forest plantations and recreational facilities built by the CCC can be found in every region of the state.
The Legacy is Established
Sometimes called "Roosevelt's Tree Army," the Massachusetts CCC planted over 12,000,000 trees and improved existing forest stands by selective thinning and pruning, firefighting, and implementing pest and disease control measures. Further, the men built roads and bridges, cut trails and scenic vistas on over 170,000 acres of state land. The CCC laid out picnic and camp grounds, beaches and parking areas; constructed fireplaces, picnic shelters, log cabins, bathhouses, and created dams and ponds – all in a rustic style that has become characteristic of state and national parks today.
Were it not for the CCC, many of America’s natural and cultural resource treasures might have been lost. DCR has a commitment to preserving the history and resources of the CCC and works with many partners in efforts to see that their legacy of civilian stewardship of Massachusetts State Parks continues today.
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