- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) - The Civilian Conservation Corps, which put millions of men to work during the Great Depression, is making a return to Cheaha State Park.

After 18 years, Cheaha is reopening a museum devoted to the CCC in Alabama. The museum opens July 7, part of an overall celebration of the park’s 75th year of continuous service in Alabama. After the park renovated the observatory tower in 1996, the museum was discontinued due to financial issues and a lack of proper protection for many of its exhibits.

“We’ve been working on getting it back since we closed it in 1996,” said Tammy Power, the park’s superintendent. “We’re glad to finally reopen it. It’s a great thing.”

The museum holds even more significance for the park because the CCC built it. The corps began construction of the park in the early ‘30s, finishing around 1939. The CCC built many of the structures on the park’s property and made it accessible to the public. So, in addition to reopening the museum, the park will also distribute maps of all the landmarks the CCC built at the park.

The CCC was a national public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942. It was a program for unemployed, unmarried men aged 18 to 25 throughout the nation, and one of the most popular of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.

The program gave people jobs related to conservation and development of natural resources in rural areas. The work paid $30 per month, most of which the men sent home to support families struggling during the Great Depression. Enrollees could work anywhere between six months to two years in the program.

Jennifer Gay, who has helped coordinate the project for years, said the program was popular in Alabama, as CCC workers helped with forestry projects, erosion control, building roads and running telephone lines.

“They did a lot throughout the U.S.,” Gay said. “They developed and preserved hundreds of thousands of acres in Alabama alone.”

To be re-established in the observatory tower, the museum will exhibit photos and tools donated by family members of CCC workers in Alabama. Power said the park will also install a monument dedicated to the CCC - a bronze statue depicting one of the program’s workers - although it will not arrive until after the museum opens.

Gay said the museum is a valuable historic resource, not just for the park, but for the state of Alabama as a whole.

“The CCC made Cheaha possible, but that organization helped keep America going,” she said. “So it’s extremely important to me and all of us up here to show future generations what they did, how they did it, how much they had to work, and how much they cared not only about the land, but their families.”


Information from: The Anniston Star, https://www.annistonstar.com/

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