Civilian Conservation Corps and Illinois State Parks, Continued

In Illinois alone, 60 million trees were planted for erosion control and reforestation, nearly 400 bridges built, 1,192 miles of trails created, 4,742 flood control structures erected, and 223,800 erosion control devices installed. The total acreage of state parks and monuments in Illinois in 1930 was 2,800 acres; by 1940, it had increased to 16,500 acres. The CCC had much to do with the development of the new tracts.

The types of tasks varied somewhat with the type of camp (e.g., soil conservation service, state park, county forest preserve, national or private forests, drainage camp, or army base), but it was likely similar work was being done (on different scales) at all camps. Of course some companies, such as those at the six camps working along the I&M Canal in northeastern Illinois, were skewed toward particular constructions--for the period 1933-1937, 32 foot bridges, 15 vehicle bridges, and 3 horse bridges were built over the canal. At White Pines, Pere Marquette, Starved Rock, and Giant City state parks, overnight cabins and lodges were built. The men at Camp Union, in Trail of Tears State Forest, Union County, worked in the tree nursery and forest but were also on call for flood duty--sand bagging the levee along the Ohio River and building shelters for flood refugees.

To illustrate what can be accomplished in just one state park, between 1933 and 1937 CCC enrollees constructed the following at Pere Marquette State Park (a demonstration area for recreational development): a lodge (96% completed in 1937), a dining hall (32% complete), 7 other buildings (barns, garages, etc.), 2 horse bridges, 2 septic pools and a disposal system, 10 latrines, 9 shelters, 13 fountains or hydrants, 5.1 miles of fence and 2.1 miles of guard rails, 2.2 miles of pipe and tile, 2 water reservoirs, 3 well houses, 50 camp stoves or fireplaces, 110 benches and tables, 150 signs, 4 chimneys, a horse trough, 40 hitching posts, 1.5 miles of truck trails, 18.5 miles of foot or horse trails, 3,000 sq. yd. each of streambank protection and riprap, 12 acres of seeding or sodding, 311 check dams, 2 other water-control structures, 100,000 cu. yd. of levee work (45% complete), 50,000 cu. yd. of ditch excavation, transplanting of 300,000 trees or shrubs, 4.6 acres of parking areas and overlooks, 20.8 acres of grading or landscaping, 10 acres of campground, and 150 acres of select cutting and vista openings. In addition, 111 man-days were spent doing archaeological surveys and 500 man-days doing other survey work; 840 man-days were devoted to emergency work (road wash-outs, pipe-lines), and 400 to borrow pits and dump sites; 1080 man-days were for transporting rock from local quarries, and 98 man-days were spent in educational pursuits.

The short and long-term elevations of the general health and economic and social welfare of the overall population due directly or indirectly to the CCC program can not be overstated. These benefits are estimated to have reached 17 million people. Over $662.8 million was sent home to dependents by the enrollees ($36.0 million of this by Illinois enrollees); employment was furnished to 3,463,766 enrollees and 263,755 advisors or other personnel in 4,500 camps across the country (a total of 165,300 individuals from Illinois). In addition, the CCC's demand for supplies, tools, medicine, lumber, rock, vehicles, and other commodities spurred the local economy. On an individual scale, approximately 40,000 men were taught to read and thousands received instruction that allowed them to obtain high school degrees. The classes and training offered to the men broadened their intellectual horizons and employment opportunities. At Camp Danville (in Kickapoo State Park, Vermilion Co., Illinois) enrollees could receive instruction in auto mechanics, agriculture, first aid, sand blasting, stone masonry, tree surgery, beekeeping, welding, hospital administration, and radio broadcasting, among other things.

After December 1941, any camps not involved in war effort projects were closed, and by the end of September 1942, all enrollees were discharged. Many of the camps were reoccupied by the armed services as training schools, or were dismantled and reestablished on military bases.

The popularity of the CCC program was attested to by the high rate of re-enlistment and increasing numbers of new applicants. Although many men re-enlisted for the maximum of two years service, through 1940 the average length of enrollment was nine months. After 1940, with increasing employment opportunities in the war industries, the average CCC enrollee worked five months. With five months of CCC experience, the enrollees, who were increasingly in the youngest age bracket, could claim enough work experience to obtain a job in industry or even rapid advance in the armed services. For over 50 years now, the camaraderie and experiences of the CCC participants have been revived in periodic reunions across the nation. Of late, web sites have been formed to share stories and memorabilia about the CCC.

CCC constructions can still be seen in several state parks. Examples include shelters at Starved Rock, Gebhard Woods, Giant City, Illini, Mississippi Palisades, I&M Canal, Pere Marquette, Starved Rock, Trail of Tears, Fox Ridge, and White Pines parks; CCC-built trails at Starved Rock, Fox Ridge, and Pere Marquette; rock campfire "council-rings" at Illini; and cabins and lodges at White Pines, Starved Rock, Pere Marquette, and Giant City state parks.

For further information, readers should consult Stan Cohen's "The Tree Army: A Pictorial History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942," (1980, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Missoula).

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