The CCC / WPA Legacy
Many Missouri state parks benefited from the hard work of men in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief programs during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the bill creating the CCC in March of 1933. Thousands of CCC enrollees in companies of about 200 men lived in tents and barracks in Missouri state parks. WPA workers also participated in park construction projects under the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) program between 1933 & 1942. CCC and WPS/ECW workers built lodges, shelters, administrative buildings, group camps, restrooms, bridges and other structures. They also laid out trails, planted trees, fought fires, combatted floods, and helped control erosion on park lands. Their labor and craftsmanship left an enduring legacy for park visitors.
The CCC Era in Meramec State Park
In 1933 Meramec State Park was among the first parks in Missouri to benefit from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, a government program created in response to the Great Depression. As part of that program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established a 220-man camp in Sullivan, MO. In the nine years that followed, Meramec State Park hosted two CCC Companies, 739 & 2728, in which 2,500 men worked.
After establishing their temporary quarters, the young enrollees began constructing the park’s permanent public facilities like the dining lodge, cabins, and recreation hall. The “Three C’ers”, as they were sometimes called, also built distinctive structures like the hexagonal observation tower on the Bluff View Trail.
A CCC tree nursery, once located where the park’s visitor center now stands, supplied seedlings for erosion control projects throughout the state. Thousands of walnut and pine trees were planted in Meramec State Park alone to hold the thin Ozark topsoil.
CCC workers made an impact on nearly all parts of the park. They even constructed the interpretive trail in Fisher Cave.
The labor of the men of the CCC, done mostly by hand with shovels, double-sided axes, hammers, and star drills transformed this portion of the Meramec River Valley into a recreation destination for countless visitors. The monument at Meramec State Park honors them for struggling through on of our nation’s most difficult times and for leaving us a lasting legacy in Meramec State Park.