Smokies: Civilian Conservation Corps and today’s stimulus dollars

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6 News Anchor/Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) — If you've ever hiked a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, crossed a bridge, or used a campground restroom, you likely benefited from the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The Corps was formed in 1933 by President Franklin  D. Roosevelt.

The CCC, as it was known, offered work across our country at a time when unemployment was at an all time high.

But with these jobs, came tremendous sacrifice. Kent Cave with the National Park Service explains, “The CCC boys were leaving family and friends and coming here and staying in barracks. It was more of a military kind of arrangement.”

There were nearly 4000 CCC members in the Smokies. They were only paid $30 a month, and $25 of that went back to their families.

The CCC carved roads into mountains, expanded the trail system to include nearly 800 miles of trails and built bridges that still stand.

“The park owes a great debt of gratitude to those guys who worked for the CCC here,” Cave says. “I imagine the park would have looked considerably different today were it not for the efforts of those 4000 CCC enrollees.”

But over the past 75 years, and in particular the last decade, many projects in the park have been on hold.

Park Spokesman Bob Miller told 6 News, “We estimated just a few years ago that we had somewhere in the range of $82 million in differed maintenance, most of which is roads.”

For example, it's been almost 35 years since the Cades Cove Loop was paved and the potholes are hard to ignore.

But Miller says today's stimulus dollars will help and like the 1930s, it could mean a lot of additional workers in the Smokies.

So far, the park has been earmarked for almost $64 million in stimulus funds.  That's about eight times the amount they normally receive for maintenance.

That money will be used for nearly a dozen projects including the rehabilitation of nine miles of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, repairing 22 miles of horse trails and reinforcing historic rock retaining walls.

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