The program kicked off shortly after 1 pm, February 21st at the South Mountain Environmental Education Center with opening introductions by park staffers P.J. Conover and Kim Keith. Mr. Conover, Recreation Coordinator and Facilities Manager expressed excitement over both the positive turnout as having both the dedication of the CCC Worker Statue and the formal opening of the Grand Canyon, National Park Service traveling exhibit. Mr. Keith, Park Manager, spoke of his new found appreciation for the CCC, gained as a result of his work at the park, amid so much CCC history.
Mr. Keith then turned the ceremony over to Michael Smith, President of CCC Legacy Chapter 44 based in Phoenix. Mr. Smith welcomed those in attendance, and specifically recognized the CCC veterans in the audience. Smith noted the place that the work and legacy of the CCC has alongside not just the wartime service of the New Deal generation, but also alongside that largely forgotten humanitarian effort, the Berlin Airlift that came so soon after the carnage of the war. Smith noted that no other nation could have turned its efforts so quickly and seamlessly from saving its own youth, to fighting a war across two oceans and then quickly back to saving a former foe in time of crisis, with a compassion that only comes from having suffered yourself.
Smith then introduced Bob Audretsch, recently retired National Park Service ranger from Grand Canyon National Park. Ranger Audretsch helped spearhead the CCC exhibit and symposium at Grand Canyon in 2008 and it was in part due to his effort that that same exhibit has now traveled to South Mountain Park were thousands more visitors will see and enjoy it. Mr. Audretsch presented a detailed and interesting account of the work of the CCC at Grand Canyon along with a history of the national CCC program. Audretsch pointed out that in all the years that the CCC worked at Grand Canyon, not a single enrollee was killed in a work related accident, despite the dangerous nature of their high angle work building trails and improvements in the Canyon and on its rims. Audretsch also alluded to the fact that, in much of the work of the CCC, heroism was an everyday thing. Audretsch then turned the program back over to Kim Keith who asked everyone to file out into the courtyard for the official unveiling of the statue.
With the crowd now gathered around the statue, Michael Smith read a letter from CCC Legacy President Joan Sharpe acknowledging the special day and pointing out that this statue is the 50th such statue to be dedicated in the United States. P.J. Conover then asked Jack Duncan, Vice-President of Chapter 44 to step forward to assist with the unveiling of the statue, which was done to enthusiastic applause. Smith then spoke briefly about the history of the Chapter 44 statue projects and noted that in the case of both of Arizona’s statues – Colossal Cave and South Mountain Park – the primary funding came from CCC veterans, proving the point that if you want a job done, call on a CCC boy. Smith noted specifically the generous contribution from Chapter 44 Vice-President Jack Duncan, whose donation funded the South Mountain statue. Jack Duncan then stepped forward and offered some personal reflections on the legacy of the CCC and specifically the struggle to make certain that the story of the CCC is told honestly and correctly in the future. Jack noted in particular his own effort decades ago as he worked to set a local history teach straight regarding the work of the CCC.
The members of Chapter 44 then stepped forward to have their picture taken with the newly dedicated statue and everyone was asked to stay for refreshments and to view the traveling CCC history exhibit. It is estimated that there were over 100 in attendance for the event.
The staff at South Mountain Park have developed a wonderful web page devoted to the work of the CCC at the park and nationwide. You can access that page here.