By Carrie Carter

For The Union Democrat

The Civilian Conservation Corps was established in 1933 by an Act of Congress for the purpose of providing employment for young men.

The Emergency Conservation Work Bill was one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s most successful responses to the serious economic depression gripping our country. Until its final year in 1942, it provided meaningful work for nearly 3 million young men in all 48 states while restoring and conserving our natural resources.

Company No. 1914 located in Buck Meadows was one of the first Civilian Conservation Corp camps established in May 1933. Criteria for enrollees were that they must be aged 18 to 25, physically fit, unemployed and unmarried. Each enrollment period was for six months and could be extended. Typical pay for a young man was $30 per month with $25 sent home to the enrollee’s family, struggling through the Great Depression.

Like other CCC camps, the Buck Meadows camp was composed of 225 to 250 men. Generally 200 young enrollees came from San Francisco, 25 to 30 were local young men, and 15 to 20 were locally experienced men called LEMs who knew the area, climate, vegetation, environmental conditions, and accepted practices. Seven to eight local men served as foremen and superintendents and two to five regular army personnel maintained camp in a military-like fashion.

Initially the Buck Meadow’s recruits were housed in tents, but by the fall of 1933 the camp was complete with barracks, a mess hall, and a recreation building. Enthusiastic and able bodied young men were taken out of the almost 50 percent unemployment and poverty of the large cities and given food, shelter, gainful employment, healthcare, education, confidence, self-respect, and work ethic.

While the day-to-day labor was physically challenging, on Saturday nights the young men would be brought down to Groveland in open trucks for movies or other recreation. The Buck Meadows camp even had a baseball team that traveled to compete in the area leagues.

Under the direction of the National Forest Service, the 800-mile long Ponderosa Way Fuel Break, a passageway for trucks starting in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and running south to the Sequoia National Forest was created by men from CCC camps.

Working with hand tools and plenty of elbow grease, this was California’s largest CCC construction project and employed men from the Buck Meadows camp and other camps throughout the state. Approximately 25 miles of this truck trail still exists in the Mi-Wok and Groveland ranger districts, a legacy to the hard work and perseverance of these young men.

Other projects constructed by the CCC in the Groveland District were the Carlon and Jawbone Guard Stations, the garage at Pilot Peak Lookout, the cabin at the Woods Ridge Lookout, the Jones Point Lookout, Foresta Bridge, Lumsden Bridge, Moore Creek Road, the Tuolumne Trail Cable Crossing, and the Groveland Ranger District Office which was on the Buck Meadows CCC camp site.

Recruits also worked on fire suppression crews, clearing underbrush, removing invasive plants, building campgrounds and picnic areas, planting trees, helping surveyors and constructing dams.

The CCC program not only provided an income for these young men but also exposed them to military style discipline and many of them went on to be ready soldiers when World War II broke out. Some married local girls, staying in the area to start careers and many took their newly acquired skills and built successful businesses and professions.