A Classic Western Quarrel:
A History of the Road Controversy at Colorado National Monument
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Construction of Rim Rock Drive: 1931-1950 (continued)

Road Construction, 1933-1942

Between 1933 and 1942, a new phase of construction began with the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps and other federal work camps in and near Colorado National Monument. Overall, the CCC had an extraordinary impact on the National Park System. Plans for this work program began during the depression when unemployment rose 22 percent between 1929 and 1933. Unemployment among the nation's young men increased faster than overall unemployment. The "dust bowl" convinced many people that the nation's natural resources were being abused. Conservation programs had been instituted in some states already. While he was governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1929 convinced stare legislators to pass county and state reforestation laws. By 1931, New York state legislators established an emergency relief administration, in which the unemployed were hired to do reforestation work, fight fires, construct roads and trails, and complete other jobs. In August, 1932, the Society of American Foresters discussed a similar program, in which men would work in national and state parks on various problems, including soil erosion, watershed protection, and road and trail construction. After Roosevelt's election in November, 1932, he requested that Chief Forester, Robert Y. Stuart, design a plan for the employment of 25,000 men in federally owned forests. The plan was never approved, but Roosevelt used it to design the CCC. [314]

During his inaugural address on March 4, 1933, Roosevelt discussed the importance of preserving both human and natural resources in the country. By March 9, 1933, he had called a conference with members of his cabinet to discuss a program, in which the Army would recruit and supervise 500,000 men in work camps throughout the United States. According to this plan, the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior would oversee work projects assigned to the camps. A bill was drafted but was withdrawn from congressional consideration due to overall opposition and weaknesses in the plan. In March, 1933, the Roosevelt administration formulated a more precise bill, in which states received grants for relief, a broad public works program was initiated, and soil erosion and forestry programs were planned. Once the bill was submitted, Congress added its own conditions; in return for forest fire prevention, construction of roads and other work, men would receive room, board, a salary, and other benefits. Under this bill, which eventually became the Federal Unemployment Relief Act, enlistment of men was set at one year, workers earned $30 per month, and part of that salary was sent home to dependents. [315]

The bill was signed on April 3, 1933. On that day, Roosevelt gathered his cabinet members and assigned duties. The Department of Labor started nationwide recruitment; the Army trained and transported enrollees to camps; and the Park and Forest Services supervised the work and the camps. Later, the Army supervised the camps while the Park Service coordinated work assignments. The April 3 meeting produced more changes in the program; enrollees had to be between the ages of 18 and 25, and they had to send at least $25 of their salary home each month. Roosevelt stipulated that each camp be composed of 200 men with enrollment periods of six months. He also personally approved camps and work assignments. The workforce varied. The Park Service often hired a certain percentage of locally employed men (LEMs) but most of the workers were from larger urban regions. [316]

Emergency Conservation Work (ECW), precursor to the CCC, officially began on April 5, 1933. The program started with an initial enrollment of 25,000 men. At first, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service were overwhelmed by large numbers of enrollees, problems with work projects, and the impact of restrictions on work camp locations. Yet, by May of 1933, the Park Service was ready to employ 12,600 men in 63 camps located in national parks and monuments across the country. [317]

Colorado benefitted a great deal from the CCC. By the spring of 1933, 30 to 35 camps were established in the Colorado District. The Grand Junction District had 20 camps. [318] Enrollees were organized and trained by Colonel Sherwood A. Cheney at a reconditioning camp set up at Fort Logan, Colorado. By mid-May, 1933, workers were shipped from Fort Logan to posts across the state, and Colorado's CCC officially began its work. [319] The CCC in Colorado ultimately had a positive impact on nearby communities. While some communities were not in favor of the camps, most found that the CCC not only provided jobs, but was also a social outlet. The relationship was reciprocal. Many CCC camps relied upon local communities to achieve success in completing projects. In the Colorado National Monument, for instance, the camps' water supply came from the Fruita water pipeline. When drought hit the Grand Valley in November, 1934, camp water mains were closed, and water was shipped from Grand Junction. [320] In addition, it was not at all unusual for the CCC to become involved in community activities. In some instances, camps were responsible for flood relief, and even participated in search parties for missing persons from the community. [321]

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Last Updated: 09-Feb-2005