When I told friends that our wedding was being held at an old Civilian Conservation Corps Camp (CCC) in the Ocala National Forest, I was surprised to find that a few of them had never heard of the CCC.
As luck would have it, part of our honeymoon found us visiting Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, home of the Florida CCC Museum. Taking a stroll through the museum gave me an opportunity to remind you of the important role that the CCC had played in Florida.
The CCC was established in 1933 as one of the “New Deal” programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It provided employment for many of the millions of young men across the country that could not find a job during the Depression years.
The mission of the CCC was to give young men employment without interfering with “normal employment,” confining the scope of work to forestry, prevention of soil erosion, flood control and other similar projects. In its first year, 275,500 men were encamped across the US, in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Here in Florida, enrollees reforested wastelands, developed recreational facilities, aided in the control of erosion on farms, and improved conditions for wildlife. Over 49,000 men from the state were enrolled across 31 camps statewide.
Luckily for us, eight of these “recreational facilities” built by the CCC became the first parks of our Florida State Parks system. At Highlands Hammock, Myakka River, Hillsborough River, Gold Head Branch, O’Leno, Fort Clinch, Torreya, and Florida Caverns State Parks, the CCC constructed buildings, visitor centers, cabins, bath houses, picnic pavilions, and a fire tower.
They built trails, camping areas, roads and bridges, and relocated a historic structure – the Gregory House, now on top of the bluff at Torreya State Park.
When you visit one of these parks, look around closely and you will find the rustic style construction and craftsmanship of these talented CCC workers.
Visit the parks
The Florida CCC Museum at Highlands Hammock State Park is located in a 1939 CCC structure. On display are CCC memorabilia, photos, and a video of old footage telling a short history of the program.
Visit the other parks mentioned in this article to see their CCC-built facilities.