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

By Neil M. Maher | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
New Deal Landscapes in the Environmental Era

During the spring of 1942, Corps enrollees stationed in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest began dismantling Camp Roosevelt, the first CCC camp in the nation. They probably began by removing 200 iron cots and bedding from the six barracks located in the northern section of the camp. They carted out books, old magazines, desks, and chairs from the camp library, pool and ping-pong tables from the recreation hall, and cooking appliances, utensils, and dishware, used for nearly a decade to provide thousands of hungry young men with three square meals a day, from the mess hall and camp kitchen. They even removed the medical supplies from the infirmary, so that all of the camp buildings, except the pump house, could be sold off by the federal government and physically moved to other locations. On the last day of the camp breakdown, before the Corps left the Massanutten Mountains for good, these young men also probably gathered around the same pine tree flagpole created back in April 1933, just days after Franklin Roosevelt initiated the Corps, when a young enrollee named John Ripley climbed to the top of the tree and began stripping it of branches until the trunk stood straight and bare. The CCC enrollees who came together in 1942 next almost certainly watched as one of their colleagues pulled on a rope, attached to the tree by a pulley, and slowly lowered the American flag for the very last time from high above Camp Roosevelt.1

The closing of Camp Roosevelt during the spring of 1942 suggests that the New Deal continued to initiate important historical changes even at the end of the Great Depression. Most obviously, the lowering of the American flag in the center of the nation’s oldest CCC camp symbolizes the slow descent of the

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