Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Days are Here Again, the New Deal and Prince William Forest Park

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) left a lasting mark on our nation’s landscape. Created during the height of the Great Depression, this New Deal era program put thousands of young Americans to work while raising awareness for the conservation of the nation’s natural resources. The CCC replanted forests, fought forest fires, worked on soil erosion projects, and cut thousands of hiking trails throughout the country. 

Welcome to Prince William Forest Park

Prince William Forest Park, a national park south of Washington DC, offers insights into the CCC and one of the New Deal's lesser-known programs, the Recreational Demonstration Area.

Camp Cabins
Recreational Demonstration Areas were created for the purpose of taking sub-marginal farmland and reclaiming it for the public good. The government purchased over- worked farmland and relocated farmers to more fertile locations, while the CCC went to work reforesting these areas. The reclaimed land was transformed into regional parks with camping and hiking amenities. One of the key goals of this program was to provide recreational opportunities in an outdoor setting for the urban poor. The idea of social welfare and cultivating a human crop of healthy Americans was just as important to this progressive era movement as the conservation of the natural environment.

Originally called the Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area, Prince William Forest Park contains five different rustic cabin camp villages complete with bunkhouses, mess halls, arts & crafts buildings, and small swimming holes. Set in the backdrop of the forest, these camps were designed specifically for the urban youth of the DC metropolitan area, and provided an escape from the city. In true progressive era fashion, the Recreational Demonstration Area aimed to bring people back to nature. This goal was sought as part of improving physical and mental wellbeing.

Hiking through Prince William Forest Park or staying the night in one of the park's many rustic cabins, gives the visitor an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Civilian Conservation Corps and learn more about the legacy of the Recreational Demonstration Area programs of the 1930s.  

Arts & Crafts Cabin

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