Filed Under Great Depression

Civilian Conservation Corps

The Dedication of Euclid Creek Reservation

At the height of the Great Depression, battalions of young men stationed at Euclid Creek Reservation worked tirelessly making Cleveland's Metropolitan Park System accessible to the public. It wasn't just the park system that benefited from their labors, however.

Ushered in by parade and sounds of the WPA Band, the Metropolitan Park Board and representatives of the Village of South Euclid formally dedicated Euclid Creek Reservation on June 24, 1936. The day marked the first public dedication of any unit in the Metropolitan Park System. Despite being in the midst of an economic depression, the South Euclid Kiwanis Club threw caution to the wind in planning the celebration. An array of scheduled activities offered a little something for everyone. Ceremonial undertakings were supplemented throughout the afternoon with children's races, games, a Works Progress Administration-sponsored vaudeville act, and appearance by professional strongman Arthur Santell.   Once adequate numbers of steel bars had been refashioned into pretzels, a guard mount of the Civilian Conservation Corps lowered the American flag to conclude the evening.

The day had been made possible by the labors of these enlisted conservationists.   Since November 21, 1933, a junior CCC company was stationed at a barracks within Euclid Creek Reservation on Highland Road. The division spent their days digging, planting trees, landscaping, trimming deadwood, and lugging around stones.   Thanks to the work of "Camp Euclid," the grounds were sculpted with scenic roads, parking lots, trails and picnic areas.  The once primitive lands of Euclid Creek Reservation had been transformed into an accessible public park within a few short years.

While the Great Depression was far from over at the time of Euclid Creek Reservation's dedication, the new park and its youthful laborers offered a visual representation of the strides made in the country toward achieving social and economic stability.   It hadn't been long since the U.S. economy bottomed out and the Great Depression reached its peak. Amid this mess, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as President of the United States on the fourth of March.   The first actions of his famous "Hundred Days" aimed to stabilize the economy; a bank holiday was called and the Economy Act drafted and quickly passed by both houses of government.   By his second week, Roosevelt began efforts to assist the unemployed with government relief and the development of labor creating programs.  The first work program submitted to both congress and the public was the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The bill authorized the government to enlist young men for work on conservation projects. Its hefty goal was to revitalize both the natural environment and the spirit of America's young, disaffected populace.   By month's end, the bill passed and efforts were underway to mobilize a work force of America's unemployed youth.

The CCC admitted its first enrollee on April 7, 1933. A battalion of Cleveland men were relocated to a U.S. Army reconditioning camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky by the middle of May.   Joining the ranks of over 250,000 men initially recruited for Roosevelt's reforestation army, these young Clevelanders were generally shipped out west or placed in one of the plus 40 companies founded in Ohio state parks that year.   Following much planning and filing of paperwork by the Metropolitan Park Board, a CCC camp was secured for Euclid Creek Reservation.  State Park 15, Company 595 was established in November to perform manual work in Euclid Creek and North Chagrin Reservations.  Under the supervision of engineers and landscape architects, the young men began the labor-intensive process of park building.   Work started immediately.   Among their many accomplishments, stone quarries were filled, dams and retaining walls built, foot and bridle trails blazed, a lake excavated, and land graded for drainage and construction.

The symbolic opening of Euclid Creek Reservation in 1936 honored more than the park improvements made by CCC crews; the Village of South Euclid had much to celebrate.   In addition to offering employment to young men and promoting the conservation of local natural resources, Civilian Conservation Corp camps throughout the United States provided an economic boost to their surrounding communities. Each of the nearly 200 CCC recruits at Camp Euclid pocketed between five and eight of their 30-dollar monthly earnings; with the remainder sent to an appointed family member on relief, the young men often used this allowance for recreational activities at local establishments such as pool halls, bars, movie theaters and restaurants.

Camp construction, maintenance, and the purchase of operational supplies also supported regional employment and businesses.  A CCC camp cost around $20,000 to build. At the time Camp Euclid was founded, both local labor and materials were used for construction of the barracks.   Once built, the cost of running a CCC camp reached upwards of $5,000 a month for food, supplies and maintenance.   Additionally, CCC camps hired "local experienced men" to dissuade any possible resentment felt by jobless members of the community.   These men, who were generally selected by the Metropolitan Park Board at Camp Euclid, lived within the immediate vicinity of projects and had experience in the work at hand.   Since WPA funds were also generously expended for park improvements in Euclid Creek Reservation, many unemployed residents of South Euclid with experience in the building trade found temporary work during trying times.

While the CCC camp benefited the surrounding community, East Cleveland and South Euclid residents also did their part in making the work relief program a success. Spurred on by public enthusiasm for the CCC, concern for the well being of enlistees, and a healthy dose of fear over the possibilities of 200 young men with money consistently being set loose on the town, the Welfare Council for Co. 595 formed to assist in the creation of programs at the camp. Representatives of local religious, civic and educational groups composed the board. Although the barracks already supplied its residents a government sponsored emergency school, it lacked critical resources like books and sporting equipment. The Welfare Council raised money to fund recreational and educational activities. By 1934, Camp Euclid offered classes in aviation principles, English, commercial art, public speaking, ethics, radio engineering, woodworking, music and banking. Recreational activities such as wrestling, boxing and calisthenics were also offered in the evening. The Cleveland Y.M.C.A oversaw the initial organization of these programs. Camp Euclid staff estimated that 96% of the company took part in one or more of the weekly activities.

The combined labors of the surrounding community, CCC employees and recruits, government officials, and the Metropolitan Park Board culminated in the dedication of Euclid Creek Reservation. By the time the barracks at Camp Euclid was demolished in 1944, wartime production had brought an end to the nation's fiscal crisis. Work relief programs such as the CCC were dismantled; their legacy, however, was imprinted within the radically altered landscape of the Cleveland Metroparks. Grounds that sat dormant during the 1920s while the Metropolitan Park Board acquired property were reshaped as an accessible public park system. The young men who helped create these parks with shovels, picks and axes were also rebuilt. The CCC provided residents of Camp Euclid a temporary reprieve from the hardships of the outside world, and offered them a chance to resume a life that had been impeded by the Great Depression.

Audio

The Contributions of the Civilian Conservation Corps Margaret Gifford shares her memories of growing up near a CCC camp. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Work with the Civilian Conservation Corps Brian Day, who grew up in Hinkley, recounts his father's work with the CCC. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks

Images

Euclid Creek Dedication, 1936 The work of the CCC at Euclid Creek Reservation had yet to be completed at the time of its dedication in 1936. Over the next year, workers from Camp Euclid continued to landscape the grounds, fill in abandoned bluestone quarries, build flood walls and develop picnic grounds. In 1937, the junior CCC unit was disbanded and replaced by a veteran's camp. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
Leaving For Fort Knox, 1933 Within two months of Roosevelt creating the Civilian Conservation Corps, over 1,700 Cleveland men were shipped off for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. To qualify for enrollment in the CCC, the applicant needed to be male, unemployed, unmarried, between the ages of 18 and 25, meet basic health standards, and come from a family on public assistance. Each CCC worker was paid 30 dollars a month, and usually agreed to have between 22 and 25 dollars of their earnings sent to a family member on relief. Most Clevelanders recruited during these first months had been unemployed for at least two years. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
Euclid Creek Parking Lot and Recreation Area, 1935 The Metropolitan Park Board had spent much of its time and resources acquiring park lands prior to the late 1920s. By design, very little was invested in making Cleveland's outlying park system accessible to the public. This all changed during the early years of the Great Depression; parks were overrun with visitors in search of cheap recreation. As demand for access to the parks grew, the Park Board's available resources dwindled. Its limited funds were allocated to contracting labor-intensive park improvements, which provided work opportunities to unemployed Clevelanders. With the advent of federal work relief programs in 1933, Cleveland's Park Board received the labor, manpower and money needed to begin its work of making the parks available to the public. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Building Bridges at Euclid Creek Reservation The labor performed by CCC recruits in the Cleveland Metroparks was part of a much larger conservation effort that transformed America's landscape during the Great Depression. Between 1933 and 1942, three million young men joined the ranks of the CCC. Of their long list of accomplishments, these recruits planted over two billion trees, created 800 state parks, blazed 13,000 miles of trails, and worked on 118 million acres of farmland. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Aerial View of Camp Euclid, 1933 The CCC was the first government work relief effort implemented as part of the New Deal. It was also the first interdisciplinary agency created by Roosevelt's administration. The Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior were planned work assignments. The Department of Labor organized recruitment and manpower. The Department of War oversaw the construction and maintenance of camp buildings, and managed day-to-day operations. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
The Reforestation Army, 1935 As part of the reforestation effort in Euclid Creek Reservation, the CCC dug up trees and replanted them in spots where they would have a better chance to grow. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
Brecksville Reservation CCC Camp, 1936 A second CCC camp, Ohio State Park Camp No. 19, opened in Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation during August of 1935. Despite the protests of the Metropolitan Park Board, the junior CCC unit disbanded in December, 1937 following a curtailment in the number of Ohio camps. The CCC operation in Brecksville had originally been scheduled to close in 1936 as part of an effort by Roosevelt's administration to reduce the number of CCC camps nationwide. An outpouring of community support for the CCC, however, led to the federal government expanding the program instead. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Camp Brecksville Young men in both urban and rural communities had difficulty finding employment during the Great Depression. Most lacked work experience and had not secured a job since leaving school. A major objective of the CCC was to reclaim the discouraged, hungry and idle youth of America. Young men were sent into nature, fed, put to work, and offered educational opportunities. The camps were designed to strengthen them physically and spiritually, provide work skills, and make them better citizen. Source: Courtesy of the Ohio History Connection
CCC Working at Brecksville Reservation Similar to the work performed out of Camp Euclid, CCC recruits stationed at Brecksville Reservation spent their days blazing trails and bridle paths, clearing deadwood, building bridges, grading roads, and landscaping grounds for parking lots and picnic areas. Material costs were kept to a minimum with both CCC camps, relying instead on the physical labor of young men. Structural improvements in the parks were left to the skilled laborers of work relief agencies such as the WPA. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Camp Euclid Open House, 1938 Celebrating the 5th anniversary of the CCC's founding, Camp Euclid hosted 2,000 visitors during it annual open house. Unlike many New Deal programs that were either dismantled by the Supreme Court or modified by Roosevelt's administration in response to opposition, the CCC was incredibly popular with the public and consistently backed by both Democrats and Republicans. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Work Experience in Euclid Creek Reservation The junior CCC division at Camp Euclid was replaced in July of 1937 by a veteran's unit. The quota for veteran enrollment in the CCC had increased the prior January, ensuring that all physically fit candidates were accepted. Veterans required less training, and were generally more experienced laborers than typical CCC recruits; as a result, the Park Board noted an increase in both the progress and workmanship of CCC work. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Tree Planting in Euclid Creek Reservation By 1939, CCC workers had planted over 8,000 trees in the Cleveland Metroparks. Also included on their list of impressive achievements: a shelter house was built in Euclid Creek Reservation, four flood walls were constructed along Euclid Creek, two picnic areas and three parking lots were developed, abandoned bluestone quarries were filled, assistance was provided in remodeling the North Chagrin Trailside Museum, and rustic signs were hand-carved for Euclid Creek and North Chagrin Reservations. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Retaining Wall in Euclid Creek Reservation Euclid Creek Reservation was once home to the bustling quarry town of Bluestone. The site of the town and quarry was developed as park space with WPA money and CCC labor. Stones used by the CCC to construct retaining walls in Euclid Creek Reservation were gathered from stream beds and the park's abandoned quarries. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks
Veteran's Camp, 1941 Pictured above, guests of Camp Euclid's annual open house are given a tour of the veteran's barracks. Unemployed veterans who served in either the Spanish American War or World War I were eligible to join the CCC. Roosevelt invited unemployed veterans to join the CCC in 1933 following a march on Washington by the Bonus Expeditionary Force. The occupying army of 3,000 World War I veterans demanded that bonuses previously received for wartime service be paid out prematurely; Roosevelt countered with an offer of employment through his newly created work relief program. Around 2,600 veterans from of the "Bonus Army" accepted jobs with the CCC. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection
Hunger Marchers Visit Public Square, 1932 The food lines, public demonstrations and general despair of the Great Depression were still a recent memory for those attending Euclid Creek's dedication. In March of 1933, America's banking system nearly collapsed; over 2.5 billion in deposits were lost. One in four employable Americans was jobless. Those with jobs often worked reduced hours at cut wages. Life in a manufacturing and industrial center like Cleveland was especially grim. A conservative estimate of unemployed persons in Cuyahoga County reached depression era heights of nearly 220,000. Close to half of all industrial laborers in Cleveland were out of work. Young men, often lacking in work experience and living with family, were neither eligible for relief nor able to find jobs. Source: Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection

Location

Metadata

Richard Raponi, “Civilian Conservation Corps,” Cleveland Historical, accessed January 23, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/690.