Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps

From Palo Duro Canyon in the Panhandle to Lake Corpus Christi on the coast, from Balmorhea in far West Texas to Caddo Lake near the Louisiana border, the state parks of Texas are home not only to breathtaking natural beauty, but also to historic buildings and other structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s.

In their new book Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Cynthia Brandimarte and Angela Reed worked together to compile a rich visual record of how this New Deal program left an indelible stamp on many of the parks we still enjoy today.

One such park is the Balmorhea State Park at Toyahville in Reeves County at the corner of State Highway 17 and Park Road 30. Between the years of 1934 and 1940, the CCC constructed entrance portals, concession buildings, bathhouses, cabins, a pool, bridges, as well as many others.

Pool at San Solomon Springs, Balmorhea State Park
(Photo by J. Griffis Smith, 2005, TxDOT) 

The San Solomon Springs, the focal point of the state park, were visited in 1583 by Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo. Many years later, settlers turned the area into a farming community and built irrigation ditches. Beginning in the 20th century, a team of engineers and investors formed an irrigation company and ultimately named the town. Recognizing its ideal location, the State Parks Board bought the land in 1934. Within the next year, the CCC began constructing a swimming pool. Using local materials, residents built roads, buildings, bridges, and irrigation canals through the 43-acre park.

Not long after the CCC left in early 1940, Balmorhea State Park became a focus for travelers touring the area and as a gateway stop for those headed to the Davis Mountains.

The contributions the CCC made to the state of Texas have left a lasting impression. This remarkable group of people and their history are featured in an ongoing exhibit mounted at the Bullock State History Museum – in coordination with the release of this book.

For more information on the book, please click here. The full story on the exhibit can be found at this website.

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