CCC Legacy To Dedicate Commemorative Wall

Celebration To Mark Corps’ 80th Anniversary Sunday In Edinburg

Posted: September 14, 2013

EDINBURG — After years of hopes, dreams and planning, the Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy is finally working on a museum.
 
Work on the James R. Wilkins Sr. CCC Interpretive Center is well under way at the CCCL’s national headquarters at the George Washington National Forest’s Lee Ranger District Office in Edinburg. Nearby Camp Roosevelt, located in Fort Valley, was the first of many CCC camps to be established during the program’s run between 1933 and 1942.
 
On Sunday afternoon, in celebration of the CCC’s 80th birthday, the legacy organization will dedicate the CCCL Commemorative Wall, which has more than 175 inscriptions from sponsors, many from or in memory of corps’ alumni.
 
Special guests will include CCC alumni from around the country, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, Shenandoah County Supervisor David Ferguson, Forest Service Chief Historian Lincoln Bramwell and Edinburg Mayor Dan Harshman.
 
The organization’s president, Joan Sharpe, said she feels it’s important to teach people about the history of the men who built the foundation for most of the nation’s existing national parks and hiking trails.
 
“The CCC really created the infrastructure of the modern outdoor recreation system,” Sharpe said.
 
The corps was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signature New Deal programs aimed at putting  the millions of Americans thrown out of work by the Great Depression back to work. The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men, ages 18 to 25, by having them work on conservation and development projects on rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments.
 
As far as history is concerned, the legacy of the conservation corps is relatively new. Especially in Virginia, which was influential from the Revolutionary War to the Industrial Revolution, Great Depression history is fairly recent, Sharpe said.
 
 In the future, though, current efforts to preserve the corps’ history will be vital.
 
“CCC history is just new to the American historical scene,” she said.
 
Construction on the interpretive center started in May. While there’s no way to tell when the project will be finished, as the CCCL is looking for about $200,000 more in donations for completion, the public may view the exhibits as works in progress until its eventual grand opening.
 
The commemorative wall outside the building was recently taken apart and rebuilt to add dozens more pavers.
 
They pay tribute to the men who worked for about $30 per month to conserve — and designate — national forests, fight forest fires, blaze trails and hang telephone wires, among other grueling endeavors. About $25 of their monthly wages was typically sent back their families, who were struggling through the Great Depression, Sharpe said.
 
A few years ago, Tim Montgomery, a CCCL member from California, found his late father’s letters to his mother from when he was working in the CCC. He has since taken an interest in its history and is now working on a records digitization project for the organization.
 
Montgomery’s father, Merlyn, worked in camps for two years in Minnesota and Kansas. The so-called Great Recession, Montgomery said, was nothing in comparison to what his father and millions of others experienced during the Depression.
 
A stone engraved in his memory is part of the commemorative wall. Montgomery flew to Edinburg to help with museum construction and will be present at the wall’s dedication.
 
“I hope it continues to remind [visitors] of all the work and resources they have access to now because of the boys and the program,” he said.
 
If You Want To Go
 
Sunday’s celebration to mark the 80th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps will be held at the Lee Ranger District Office, 102 Koontz St., Edinburg. The office is the home of the James R. Wilkins Sr. CCC Interpretive Center. The event is set for 2 p.m.
 
More information can be found online at www.ccclegacy.org.
 
Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or kcloos@dnronline.com


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