After a decade of national prosperity in the Roaring Twenties, Americans faced a national crisis after the Crash of 1929. The Great Depression saw an unemployment rate of more than twenty-five percent in the early 1930s. (pbs)
As a means to make work, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) succeeded the Emergency Conservation Work agency, which started in 1933. In 1939, the CCC became part of the Federal Security Agency. It was eliminated in 1943. (UH Mānoa)
The purpose of the CCC and its predecessors was to provide employment in forestry and conservation work. It “brought together two wasted resources, the young men and the land, in an effort to save both.” (NPS)
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a program developed by Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal (1933) at the end of the Great Depression. During FDR’s inaugural address to Congress in 1933, he told the lawmakers in his first message on Unemployment Relief …
“I propose to create a Civilian Conservation Corps, to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects.”
From FDR’s inauguration on March 4, 1933, to the induction of the first CCC enrollee, only 37 days had elapsed. The goals of the CCC according to the law were: “1) To provide employment (plus vocational training) and 2) To conserve and develop ‘the natural resources of the United States.’”
By the end of the third year, there were 2,158-CCC camps in the nation and 1,600,000-men had participated in the program. (NPS)
Although the Civilian Conservation Corps began on the US mainland in 1933, “it was not until one year later, [on] April 1, 1934, that the first units of this Corps began work here in Hawaii under the direction of the Territorial Division of Forestry”. The Civilian Conservation Corps was defined by nine Corps regions. The Territories of Alaska and Hawaiʻi were part of the Ninth Corps Area. (NPS)
The goal of the CCC was to provide young men with jobs during a time when many were unemployed, times were hard, and starvation was a concern. (NPS)
It was estimated that 8 to 10 percent of Hawaiʻi’s young men were enrolled by the Civilian Conservation Corps during its tenure from 1934 to 1942. There were CCC camps on Oʻahu, Maui, Kauai, the island of Hawaiʻi and Molokai. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, NPS)
Each CCC enrollee was paid $30 a month and was provided with food, clothing, shelter and free medical care (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 18, 1942). Of that amount, $25 dollars a month was automatically deducted and sent home to their families. (NPS)
There were five primary CCC camps built in Hawaiʻi (the CCC Compound at Kokeʻe State Park, the most intact today; what is now a YMCA camp at Keʻanae on Maui; a research facility on the Big Island; Hawaiian Homes Property with only two buildings remaining on the Big Island; and part of Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa on Oʻahu.) Other temporary campgrounds were spotted in work areas around the Islands.
Their projects were numerous and included road and building construction, erosion control, masonry, firefighting, trail maintenance, vegetation and insect control among many others. One of the main goals of the CCC was to renew the nation’s decimated forests, so lots of tree planting went on. (NPS)
Within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (then known as Hawaiʻi National Park,) as well as many other parks and forests, much of the work that the CCC did is still evident and still in use. From the research offices to the hiking trails, the CCC laid the foundations for much of the infrastructure and roads that we see and use today in the Park. (NPS)
The old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp in Kokeʻe State Park on Kauai is a complex of eleven wood frame buildings surrounding an open grassed quadrangle. These buildings were constructed in 1935 and are sheltered on three sides by koa/ʻōhia forest. (Hui O Laka/Kōkeʻe Museum use and operate within these structures, today.) The CCC at Kokeʻe provided forest management, building trails, roads and fences, as well as planting over a million trees on Kauaʻi.
In 1934, the CCC took over the Keʻanae prison camp (initially built to house prisoners who worked at building the Hāna Highway.) CCC assembled men from other parts of Maui and other islands to plant thousands of eucalyptus and other introduced trees throughout the Hāna coast. (McGregor) Eventually, in 1949, the camp was acquired by the YMCA. Part of the land area continues to be used as a roadway base yard.
The CCC took over the Territorial foresters’ camp at Keanakolu (on the side of Mauna Kea, near Humuʻula on the Big Island) and expanded it into a field camp. The camp consisted of a bunkhouse that housed as many as 40 teenage boys, a mess hall, foreman’s quarters, and other service buildings. Another foreman’s quarters was added next to the koa cabin. (Mills)
Major duties included maintenance of trails, developing the Mana/Keanakolu wagon road into an auto road (placing cobble stones to form a single-lane road,) construction of fences to keep cattle and sheep out of the forest, and the planting of a variety of forest and fruit trees.
In all, over 20-varieties of pear, 25-varieties of plum and 60-varieties of apple were planted. (Mills) By the 1940s, the CCC camp at Keanakolu was converted into a field station for territorial rangers and is now used by DLNR.
From April 1934 until May 13, 1941, the CCC operated a “side camp” in the Haleakalā Section of the Hawaiʻi National Park; CCC participants were housed in tents and moved to where the work areas were. (NPS)
Major park improvements through the CCC program on Haleakalā included the construction of the approximately 11-mile Haleakalā Road, Haleakalā Observation Station, two Comfort Stations (public toilets) and the Checking Station and Office at the park entrance. Several trail projects were completed within the Park. (NPS)
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Michael Barnette says
Unfortunately many invasive species such as ironwood were planted during this time which now severely compromise the ability of the forests to absorb water and increased erosion.
Frank O. Hay says
Peter, many thanks for the excellent narrative and photographs of the CCC in action. I’ve researched the CCC at Kokee for years, and have never come across any photos like those you’ve found of the CCC men in action on the Big Island. We very much appreciate your coverage of the Camp at Kokee!
Me ke aloha,