Remembering Roosevelt’s ‘Tree Army’
The old, faded Certificate of Discharge, a scrapbook and a small, military-type insignia with the letters “CCC” is all that’s left from my dad’s days as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 and 1934.But my Dad’s legacy, along with all the other “CCC boys” who worked in what was know as Roosevelt’s Tree Army, is a lasting one 50 years later. They did much more than plant trees, although they did place 3 billion trees in the ground from 1933 to 1942.Drive the gravel road from the outskirts of Minturn up to Tigiwon on the White River National Forest and you will see what I mean. The road itself is a product of their hard labor.Tigiwon Community House stands as a proud reminder that hungry teenagers from the Great Depression, fresh off farms and ranches and God knows where else, given the opportunity were able to build works of beauty.The one-room log structure with its rock fireplace looks out over the Gore Range as if to guard the scenic beauty of the Colorado Rockies. The day I was there, workers had finished cleaning up for a weekend wedding.Continue up the mountain on Forest Road 707 to the Half Moon campground and park. Grab your pack filled with food, plenty of water, rain gear and a good warm coat and head up to Notch Mountain Shelter. Being in good shape is a prerequisite for the strenuous hike ahead.If you’re caught in one of the many early fall storms that can leave a dusting of snow on the ground and rattle your bones with cold wind, all the better. Another well-built CCC structure awaits you.The special place afforded this small rock shelter by the Forest Service is testimony to the appropriateness of the mission its builders so passionately fulfilled. It lies in the Holy Cross Wilderness. Few buildings are tolerated in a wilderness area.But the old shelter needs help.A few years ago volunteers through the Forest Service Passport in Time program patched the roof as a temporary fix. But now it needs a new roof to keep water from damaging the building.With ever-shrinking recreation funds available to the forest, that necessary roof replacement has to compete with other worthy projects on an annual basis. It could be a few years before it’s fixed. There are many other lasting monuments to the labor of the CCC on the White River National Forest and throughout Colorado. Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of them.This past Labor Day the few remaining veterans of the CCC program that built Red Rocks gathered there to be honored with a 6-foot bronze statue of a young CCC “boy.” “The Worker” memorializes a shirtless teenager with a big, double-bladed ax. It is the only “official” monument to the years of hard work these young men performed for the public.But the legacy they left throughout our nation’s forests is monument enough for this descendant, proud of his father’s lasting labor.Writing from more than 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight of Glenwood Springs shares his stories with readers every other week.Writing from more than 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight of Glenwood Springs shares his stories with readers every other week.
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