One reason that historians give for the success of the CCC is that many agencies had wish lists of project work they needed to accomplish already written up when the CCC was created. These wish lists often grew out of the years of neglect that was manifest in our nation’s state and national forests and parks. These were truly shovel ready projects that local officials already had in mind when the CCC was created in 1933.
Iowa is an example of a state that benefited tremendously not simply from the work of the CCC, but because Iowa had a set of plans and goals already in place or nearly in place in early 1933. Iowa was well positioned to utilize the resources of the CCC immediately and as Rebecca Conrad points out in “The Legacy of Hope from an Era of Despair: The CCC and Iowa State Parks”, President Roosevelt was so impressed with Iowa’s long range plan, he instructed CCC Director Robert Fechner to “Give Iowa all it wants.”
In Roosevelt’s Forest Army, Perry Merrill notes that the average number of camps to operate in Iowa was 29 with an average distribution in fiscal year 1937 as follows: State Forest Camps: 1, Biological Survey Camps: 1, Soil Conservation Service Camps: 20, Agricultural Engineering Camps: 5 and State Park Camps: 8.
Merrill goes on to note that the aggregate number of Iowa men who gained employment as a result of the CCC was 45,846, which included 41,190 junior and veteran enrollees, 60 Native American enrollees and 4,596 non-enrolled camp staff such as foremen and military officers.
Backbone State Park, Bixby State Park, Echo Valley State Park and White Pine Hollow State Park are among the state parks to gain from CCC work in Iowa (Merrill, p. 129). Ren and Helen Davis list still further state parks with a CCC connection in their recent book Our Mark on This Land: A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks; among them: Black Hawk State Park, Lake Wapello State Park, Ledges State Park and Palisades-Kepler State Park. Among the specific improvements noted by the Davis’s: park roads, picnic areas, shelters, cabins, observation towers, entry portals and utility structures.
The Annual Reports offer another glimpse of CCC work carried out in the state of Iowa. For example, the fiscal year 1937 report notes that the CCC built 3 foot bridges and 3 vehicle bridges in Iowa and if those figures seem a bit on the low side, consider that in Iowa, CCC enrollees also dug some 101,622 linear feet of diversion ditches that year, and CCC enrollees moved and planted 250,191 trees and shrubs and they performed insect pest control on some 18,000 acres of land in Iowa alone!
The 1939 Annual Report records 4 foot and horse bridges and 5 vehicle bridges built by the CCC along with 61,877 linear feet of diversion ditches and 144,001 trees and shrubs moved and planted and insect pest control conducted on 4,934 acres during the same reporting period.
Happy Days, the official newspaper of the CCC reported the deaths of at least 6 enrollees in Iowa camps between 1933 and 1940. Company 1757 at Bedford, Iowa suffered the loss of two enrollees. The January 9, 1937 issue of Happy Days documented the death of enrollee George Griffith, who was killed in a truck crash. Almost 3 years later, enrollee Frank Coates, also with Company 1757 at Bedford, was killed in an automobile accident while absent from the camp without authorization, according to the October 13, 1939 issue of Happy Days.
Conrad, Rebecca, The Legacy of Hope from an era of Despair: The CCC and Iowa State Parks, from Books at Iowa 64, April 1996, The University of Iowa. Available online here: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/bai/conard.htm
Davis, Ren & Helen, Our Mark on This Land: A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks, 2011, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company.
Merrill, Perry H, Roosevelt’s Forest Army, 1981, Perry H. Merrill, Publisher.
U.S. Government Printing Office, Annual Report of the Director of Emergency Conservation Work, Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1937.
U.S. Government Printing Office, Annual Report of the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1939.
Copyright, 2013, Michael I. Smith