ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED CONSERVATION SERVICE EMPLOYEES (ARCSE)

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CCC Work in FLORIDA

 

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In addition to the stock market crash, Florida was hit with 2 major hurricanes in the late 1920s.   FL welcomed the New Deal programs, and the CCC was the first to get started at Sebring during April, 1933.   In 1935, FL started the state park system, and the CCC built the first 8 state parks.   Those 8 parks were Highlands Hammock, Myakka River, Hillsborough River, Gold Head Branch, O'Leno, Fort Clinch, Torreya, and Florida Caverns.

 

Gold Head Branch:

 

Many thanks go to Warren Poplin (pictured to the right), Gold Head Branch Park Manager, and park volunteers for the following information.

 

Gold Head Branch State Park is located about 40 miles SSW of Jacksonville along State Route 21.   Mike Roess donated the land for the park.   The park contains 2,366 acres with 12 types of natural communities.   They range from very dry habitats such as sandhill pine and scrub plants to basin marshes, seepage slopes, and sinkhole lakes.   In July of 1935, twenty-five seasoned craftsman joined many war veterans to form Company 2444 to work on the park.

 

Work started on the park in July of 1935, and it was dedicated on April 15, 1935.   That was less than 4 years!

 

First, they constructed their living quarters.   It was called Camp Gold Head Branch (FL-SP-5).   The water storage tank pictured here was at the edge of their camp.

 

 

They built the roadways and the park entrance including the cabin for a park attendant.

 

 

This is one of many cabins they built. The day I visited the park, Frankie (pictured here) was painting,
and he told me that he and his bride had honeymooned in that cabin in 1973.

 

They built very durable picnic tables and benches out of stone.

 

They built picnic shelters - this being the largest one.

 

 

The bath house in 1937

 

The bath house in 2008

 

They, also, built the superintendant’s home, pavilions, a recreation hall, and camping areas.

 

Fort Clinch:

The following information was provided by: Marie Bucher (on the right in the picture), Fort Clinch Park Services Specialist, George Berninger (in the center in the picture), Park Ranger, and Frank Ofeldt (on the left in the picture), Park Ranger. George has worked at Fort Clinch for over 30 years and knows every detail about the parks history.

 

In 1842, the U.S. Government bought the tract of land on which Fort Clinch is located to guard the mouth of St. Mary's River, protect coastal and interior shipping, and defend the deepwater port at Fernandina, FL.   Construction of the fort began in 1847, and was never finished.   It was a third generation fort - a two wall system of masonry and stone & brick and earth.   When the Civil War broke out the confederacy easily took control of the fort, and on March 3, 1862 the union took it back.   With the advent of rifled barrel cannons, third generation forts became obsolete.   Work on Fort Clinch continued slowly until 1868 when the post was deactivated.   The fort was reactivated for a short period in 1898 during the Spanish American War.   In 1926, the Federal Government sold the reservation to private interests.   The State of Florida bought the area in 1935 for preservation and outdoor recreation.

 

The fort needed major repairs.   Wind had blown tons of sand inside the fort, there were over 250 unexploded cannonballs left over from the Civil War, wood was rotting, vegetation was taking over, and remember the fort had never been completd!   The CCC was asked to make the fort into a state park - they had a tremendous amount of work to do.

 

During July of 1937, Camp Fort Clinch (SP-8) was started on a small hill along the original road to the fort which was west of the current road.   Company 1420 were Veterans from central Florida and a few from Georgia provided the work force.   They removed 10,000 cubic yards of sand, and cleared the trees and brush.   They forged a new roadway through the forest, creating a beautiful drive.   The road surface was originally made of shells.

 

 

 

One evening, it was close to quiting time, and the boys had one more stump to blast.   They had 10 sticks of dynamite, and three sticks would have been enough, but they didn't want to take the remaining 7 sticks back to the storage area and be late for dinner.   The next morning the road builders wondered why there was such a big hole to fill in at that stump!

 

From materials that were meant to be used to complete the fort, the boys instead built the structure which is now used as a museum.

 

The building as it looked in the 1940s when it was used as a concession/picnic area.

 

Benjamin Green was the overall Project Supervisor, and John Flalana was the Supervisor of Mechanics.   On the job training included carpentry, electrical, plumbing, welding, mechanics, earth moving, explosives, surveying, clerical, radio operation, cooking, etc.   From this experience, one boy became an electrical contractor, and started his own company which is still in the family.

 

   Info gathered and assembled by Owen Lee.   Last updated March 2, 2008