Cherry Springs State Park - History - Civilian Conservation Corps

Civilian Conservation Corps

Cherry Springs Picnic Pavilion
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Location: 8 mi. N of Carter Camp off PA 44, West Branch Township, Pennsylvania
Area: less than one acre
Built: 1933
Governing body: Local
MPS: Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Architecture in Pennsylvania State Parks: 1933-1942, TR
NRHP Reference#: 87000052
Added to NRHP: May 11, 1987

As the timber was exhausted and the land burned, many companies simply abandoned their holdings. In 1897 the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation which authorized the purchase of "unseated lands for forest reservations" and the first Pennsylvania state forest lands were acquired the following year. The first land for the Susquehannock State Forest was acquired in 1901; the cost for the major acquisitions was an average of $2.50 per acre ($6.18 per ha). This is roughly equivalent to $47 per acre ($118 per ha) in 2013 terms. As of 2003, the Susquehannock State Forest, which almost entirely surrounds the park, covered 265,000 acres (107,000 ha), chiefly in Potter County with small tracts in Clinton and McKean counties.

Astronomy Field side.

The park traces its existence back to 1922, when the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry established three scenic areas in state forests as part of a "plan for retaining their natural beauty". One of these was the 6.5-mile (10.5 km) "Cherry Springs Scenic Drive" on the old Coudersport-Jersey Shore Turnpike. That same year, one of 16 "Class B" public campgrounds in the state forests was located on Cherry Springs Drive. These campgrounds were free for the public to use and all had potable water, picnic tables, a fireplace, garbage can, and a latrine. The land where the hotel sat was purchased by the state in 1932.

Like many state parks in north central Pennsylvania, development of the facilities at Cherry Springs was the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work relief program for young men from unemployed families. Established in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation, the CCC was designed to combat unemployment during the Great Depression. It operated in every U.S. state, and established ten CCC camps in the Susquehannock State Forest, of which eight were in Potter County.

Cherry Springs was home to CCC Camp S-136-Pa, which was established on May 27, 1933. According to the camp's 1936 History: "Through the efforts of the enrollees Cherry Springs Park, formerly a clearing, has been transformed into a park of which the people of Potter County can be proud of." A historic recreation of the original tavern was built, as were a rifle range, picnic tables and shelters, roads, and hiking trails. The young men of the CCC camps worked to clear brush from the woods as a fire prevention measure. After clearing the woods, they planted stands of Norway Spruce and white pine, as well as an apple orchard. Camp-136-Pa closed on July 10, 1937.

Men from CCC Camp S-88-Pa, based at nearby Lyman Run in Potter County, were also active in the park. In 1939, they built a structure at Cherry Springs which is "the largest and most unique of the CCC-built picnic pavilions" in the state, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The pavilion overlooks PA Route 44 and is shaped like an H, with two partially enclosed structures (the vertical lines of the H) connected by a breezeway (the horizontal bar). The breezeway is a roof supported by eight log columns with log railings. The ends of the pavilion are built from log walls with white chinking, like log cabins. Each end has a large opening to the breezeway in one wall, while the other three sides are fully enclosed with a large window in the wall facing the highway, a stone fireplace and chimney on the opposite wall, and a door flanked by windows on the wall opposite the breezeway.

A 1984 survey of Pennsylvania state parks found the "three picnic pavilions, and their associated latrines" at Cherry Springs "typical of the smallest day use areas constructed by the CCC". These pavilions are examples of the rustic style built by the CCC in state parks throughout the Great Depression. Local materials were used in a way that minimized impact on the natural surroundings, and in a manner that resembled the building style of the pioneer settlements of the Appalachian Mountains.

In addition to the two CCC camps active at the park, Cherry Springs also was home to Camp Elliott, which was run by the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters (precursor to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)) for college students and other unemployed men. In 1935 they built an airfield, Cherry Springs Intermediate Field, just north of the park. The 40-acre (16 ha) airfield was originally built for emergency landings and later became a small airport. In 1936 it had a sod runway of dimensions 2,400 by 500 feet (730 by 150 m), and a hangar. The United States' entry into the Second World War led to the end of the CCC and all its camps were closed by the summer of 1942.

Read more about this topic:  Cherry Springs State Park, History

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