Nature's New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement

By Neil M. Maher | Go to book overview

FOUR/COMMUNITY
Locals and Next-Door Natures

In October 1934, the residents of Elkins, West Virginia, invited Corps enrollees stationed nearby in Camp North Fork to participate in their Mountain State Forest Festival. Held annually since 1929, the three-day festival involved pageants, contests, parades, and dances that drew tens of thousands of tourists from West Virginia and surrounding states. After accepting the invitation, the young men from Camp North Fork left their barracks in the Allegheny Mountains of Monongahela National Forest and journeyed to Elkins, where they participated in baseball games and boxing matches against locals citizens, built their own float for the festival’s parade, and staffed information booths and a model CCC camp that explained the conservation work taking place in the surrounding mountains. The North Fork enrollees were also front and center in the many speeches given by visiting dignitaries. U.S. Secretary of War Henry Dern told the crowd at Elkins that Corps conservation projects such as those undertaken in Monongahela National Forest were central to national defense, while President Roosevelt, during his own personal visit to the Forest Festival, publicly praised the conservation efforts of Camp North Fork and other CCC camps across the country.1

As the Mountain State Forest Festival suggests, the landscape changes caused by CCC conservation projects did more than transform Corps enrollees. When the young men of Camp North Fork described the impact of their labor on the surrounding countryside during the three-day festival, local residents learned about the conservation of natural resources, many for the first time. As important, the CCC’s conservation work in nearby Monongahela National Forest brought New Dealers, including Secretary Dern and the

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