A New Deal for Texas Parks - HTML Exhibit

Chapter 3 - Building Parks, Building Communities

Introduction

Both President Franklin Roosevelt and Texas Governor Pat Neff had a vision of public lands for the enjoyment of the people. The Civilian Conservation Corps work relief program made that dream a reality by building parks in Texas. Boys desperate to help themselves and their families in a time of great need were put to work. While earning a good wage and building self-esteem, the CCC boys improved communities along the way by bolstering local economies and giving people a treasure in their community. Today, the parks built by the CCC continue in this legacy by providing recreation opportunities for local Texans and tourists while fostering a distinct sense of local pride.

A cartoon of the period shows CCC boys hard at work building
parks and the eager public rushing in to enjoy a new beauty spot.
Photo courtesy of Texas State Library and Archives Commission
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A cartoon of the period shows CCC boys hard at work building
parks and the eager public rushing in to enjoy a new beauty spot.


Building Parks

The CCC built over 30 parks for Texas. Each park was designed to have a specific look that was inspired by its natural surroundings. Rustic cottages, picnic shelters and other structures were constructed of natural materials. Locally quarried stone and hand-hewn logs made the buildings blend into the natural landscape. Building the parks was time-consuming and labor intensive. Even though high-tech machinery was available, the enlistees were trained in traditional building methods using old-fashioned hand tools that created buildings that were built to last. Today, you can visit these parks to enjoy the natural beauty of Texas and to experience history through the CCC architecture.

Photograph of overlook shelter at Davis Mountains State Park.
TPWD Photo
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CCC enlistees used local materials to ensure that
buildings complimented its natural surroundings like
this look-out shelter at Davis Mountains State Park.
CCC enlistees at Fort Parker
Photo courtesy of the National Archives, Denver.
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Fort Parker was one of the many African-American CCC camps. Many African-American enlistees
in the South, including Texas, were segregated in their own camps. Racial discrimination was
prohibited in the CCC, but CCC Director Robert Fechner did not consider segregation discrimination.
Interior of Refectory Building at Bastrop SP.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives, Denver.
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Not only did the CCC construct buildings and trails, many enlistees made furniture and
decorative features for the interiors of buildings. In the Refectory Building at Bastrop State Park,
CCC boys hand-made the furniture and created art like the sculpture above the fireplace.
“Pictorial Sketch of Texas and its State Parks,” 1939.
Photo courtesy of National Archives, College Park
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By 1939, the CCC built a number of parks for
Texas as illustrated in "A Pictorial Sketch of
Texas and its States Parks."
"Hand Tools" Training manual for course taught at Cleburne SP, Cover image.
Photo courtesy of National Archives, Denver
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Many CCC boys had little experience in construction and their safety was
important. This instruction manual from Cleburne State park taught CCC
enlistees the correct and incorrect way to use hand tools like axes and saws.


Multimedia:

Building Communities

The CCC camps strengthened local and distant communities alike. Large-scale building projects created a great need for local goods and services. Local communities happily responded and provided crucial supplies and experience. Area spots like movie theaters, bars and dance halls offered leisure activities for newly paid enlistees. The economies of the boys’ hometowns improved too because each boy was required to send a large portion of their earnings home. The CCC boys, their families and local communities got much needed financial assistance that improved their lives greatly.

"We Get the Job Done" Caddo Lake CCC Camp
TPWD Photo
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Even though women were not allowed to participate in the Civilian Conservation
Corps, its presence in their communities often benefited women through job
creation. Some local ladies even met future husbands through CCC!
Local Experienced Men (LEM) shows proper tool handling.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives, Denver.
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The CCC also provided jobs for local residents. Local experts, known as
Local Experienced Men (LEM) were hired to assist in construction and training
because of their knowledge of a specific skill such as masonry or blacksmithing.
Picture of Ezekeil Rhodes.
TPWD Photo.
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"I went in for a certain-was my father's wish. Because this CC camp helped the whole community. All the
grocery stores and everything else profited from it because if it hadn't been for the CC camp, a lot of
people, I don't know, they'd just starved to death." - Ezekeil Rhodes, Oral History, Fort Parker Group
June 18, 1936 - Newspaper article about Balmorhea grand opening.
Photo courtesy of the JD and Louise Sellers Family Collection.
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Grand opening celebrations like the one at
Balmorhea State Park lifted people's spirits and
brought much-needed money into communities.


Building Texas Tourism

The Civilian Conservation Corps built many of Texas’ parks. Long after the CCC camps disbanded and the perils of the Great Depression faded, the legacy of the CCC and Texas Parks continues today. For over 70 years Texans have visited state parks to get back to nature, play in the water and gather with family and friends. The parks built by the CCC continue to support local communities by providing jobs and encouraging tourism. Take a trip today to experience the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corp and add your own memories to the scrapbook of Texas State Parks.

A vintage postcard from Abilene State Park.
TPWD Photo.
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CCC parks and architecture
are something to
write home about!
Vintage postcard for Garner State Park.
TPWD Photo
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Garner State Park continues to be
a favorite park for local Texans
and tourists alike.
Photograph of park visitors cooking.
TPWD Photo.
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Since the CCC built parks for Texas, people have enjoyed
the outdoors in Texas Parks. Activities like hiking, camping
and outdoor grilling continue to be favorite activities.
Photograph of pool at Abilene State Park.
TPWD Photo.
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CCC-built pools, like this one at Abilene,
are a favorite destination that provides
a cool break from the Texas heat.
Grand opening flyer for Balmorhea State Park.
Photo Courtesy of JD and Louise Sellers Family Collection.
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The grand opening of Balmorhea State Park was only
the beginning of something special. Today, families
and friends still gather here to celebrate and relax.


Download "My Keepsake" guide for Chapter 3media download(PDF 132.3 KB).


Go to Chapter 4 - Keeping the Boys Busy.


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