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Star Party
in the morning, we summit!

CCC plaque, commemorating the work on Davis Mountains Indian Lodge

interior view, Davis Mountains Indian Lodge

sculpture, image often used to represent CCC

eager people, going to The Star Party!

5/1/2009    Posted 5/15/2009, Fort Davis, Texas

Inspired by our late evening hike yesterday, we woke up and chose one of the many different hikes available right in this campground which is within Davis Mountain State Park. We did "summit" today but that was not nearly the high point of the day. We decided to attend a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory (no affiliation with McDonald's as one might think). The party was from 9 to midnight and we got to see the night sky through the telescopes that some of the best astronomers in the country use. Michael was really in his element at the Observatory. He always has such a great grasp on the big picture which is why I think he loves astronomy and is so good at it. I asked him what he likes best about it and he said, "It's so real, you look up and no matter where you are you can see it."

I feel like we are finally entering the hiking an outdoor phase of the trip which is how I had envisioned the trip before we left. I think it is because we are really west now and there are great hikes everywhere, not to mention that national and state parks abound.

This brings me back to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Seventy-five years ago, faced with a terrible economy, rising unemployment rates, and new environmental concerns, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created what would become one of the hallmark programs of the New Deal: the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC ran from 1933 to 1942 and employed more than 3 million workers who helped create so many of the state and national parks that exist in this country today.

We are seeing some of the CCC work firsthand and it is breathtaking. There was an interesting and uncommon phenomenon that happened with the CCC. There was an overabundance of labor with a shortage of building materials. This meant that the laborers had to use materials and building techniques that were completely indigenous to the area, and they were often trained by people who were experts in their trade. The result: beautiful, expertly designed structures that were built with unbelievable detail and pride. Perhaps and even greater accomplishment: millions of men and their families on the brink of starvation were taught viable skills, given room and board, and able to send money home to their families. I have read more than one quote from a CCC worker stating that the CCC gave them a new life. I am stunned at what was accomplished by the CCC, from visitor centers to lodges to roads, to bridges to trails and paths that enable the public to hike through forests and up mountains experiencing the most outstanding landscapes this country has to offer.

FDR was quoted as saying, "I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth."

By 1942, World War II began and many of the men in the CCC went off to war and funding was needed for the war. Since then, the corps program has existed in a more modest, less centralized form, with various groups now enrolling about 26,000 people.

Today, President Obama appears to be considering a similar, if somewhat smaller, conservation corps. The National Parks Conservation Association, specifically, is advocating for the creation of a new "parks service corps," which they say would create 20,000 jobs over the next five years. Some of the things that were constructed in the '30s during the CCC period need to be rebuilt and shored up. This would fit well with Obama's push for national service jobs, which might also incorporate a "Clean Energy Service Corps". This new corps would enroll workers to retrofit buildings with greener energy and thereby help people find useful work and gain skills in a growing industry of the future.

The CCC model is a great one that worked on so many levels, and it would be great to witness a modern day corps that could work towards good once again.

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