in Windsor, Vermont, CCC workers built the
road up the mountain, the stone ranger’s house,
a stone picnic shelter, and a ski run and ski jump.
In Willoughby State Forest in Westmore, they
constructed five miles of foot trails and two miles
of horse trails, a four-mile road leading to Lake
Willoughby, an open log shelter with native stone
fireplaces, and a picnic area. At Elmore State Park
in Elmore, the Corps built an elegant bathhouse
(which was recently restored) and created a sandy
beach on Lake Elmore. In Groton State Forest in
Marshfield, about 40 miles of foot trails were cut to
provide better access for firefighting; today, these
trails and the log lean-tos the CCC built along
them are used extensively by hikers. Many more
examples of the CCC’s fine work can be found
throughout Vermont’s state parks and forests.
Charles Lord of Stowe was a CCC foreman
who designed and oversaw the cutting of the first
ski trails on Mount Mansfield, which are now
part of Stowe Mountain Resort. Later, he worked
for the ski area. In an interview conducted by the
Vermont Historical Society, he recalled: “Most
of the boys were pretty ravished when it came to
lunch time. Some of the boys were too far away
from camp to come back…to eat. Each one carried their own lunch. It consisted of four double
sandwiches. I mean there would be eight slices of
bread, plus a piece of cake or something.”
A Lasting Legacy
Back at Osmore Pond, Whipple and Medose
remarked at the craftsmanship of the picnic shel-
ter. The logs are notched and carefully fitted
together at the corners of the building. Two-thirds
of the structure is open-sided with railings; a stone
fireplace and chimney stand at one end. A third of
the building is enclosed and used for restrooms.
The concrete floors were poured by CCC work-
ers (and have since been restored by the State).
The picnic tables inside include four made by the
CCC, with a design distinct from the modern
tables nearby. The Corps followed plans provided
by the National Park Service, but with a different
foreman for each crew, each building is a little
different. “CCC architecture is now the brand for
Vermont’s State Parks,” said Whipple. “It’s quality,
solid in appearance and structure, and built to last.
We’re trying to replicate it in new construction….
As we rehab park infrastructure, we’re taking
extreme care of CCC-built structures. We work
closely with the Vermont Division of Historic
Preservation. These structures are used today by
hundreds of thousands of people.”
Although the CCC’s work was progressive
for the time, looking back on it with today’s
understanding of ecology, we know some of their
projects had mixed results. For example, red pine
monocultures are not natural biologically diverse
ecosystems. It is better to plant trees and shrubs
along streams to prevent erosion than to armor
them with riprap, which can cause greater erosion
downstream. In the late 1930s, university ecologists
(the science of ecology was little known to the pub-
lic) began to question some of the CCC’s practices.
At the same time, wilderness advocates opposed
some of the CCC’s development of national and
state parks, such as building roads into wild areas.
The formation of the Wilderness Society in 1935
was influenced by a field trip the founders made to
a dam and highway in the southern Appalachians
built by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the
assistance of the CCC.
The Corps changed some of their practices
in response to this criticism and cancelled many
of their road-building projects in the late 1930s.
This national debate sparked by the CCC’s work
was the beginning of the modern environmental
One of the CCC’s greatest accomplishments was
to popularize conservation among the public at
large. People began to embrace conservation and
form conservation groups. Children studied con-
servation in school and womens’ groups undertook
tree-planting programs around the country. Many
corps members went on to become foresters and
Vermont would not have the state park system
it has today without the Civilian Conservation
Corps. The Green Mountain State has 52 state
parks, a greater number than many larger states
with greater populations. The next time you visit
one, look for the classic imprint of the CCC.
Although most of the CCC boys have passed
away, their legacy lives on in those log shelters,
carefully-crafted stone fireplaces, and hiking trails
that many enjoy using today.
Susan Shea is a naturalist, conservationist, and freelance writer who
lives in Brookfield, Vermont.