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Discover Oklahoma: Oklahomans still use 1930s works projects

BY MAX NICHOLS Published: May 31, 2009
While public works projects of this year’s federal stimulus program are being planned or put into action, Oklahomans still enjoy the fruits of stimulus programs engineered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal seven decades ago.

When visitors go boating, water skiing or fishing at Lake Murray State Park near Ardmore or rock climbing at Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton, they are enjoying facilities first developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Congress established the CCC on March 31, 1933 — during the first 100 days of Roosevelt’s administration. In 1934, Oklahoma had 5,000 men in 26 CCC camps.

Boiling Springs, Roman Nose and Quartz Mountain state parks were developed in western Oklahoma by the CCC, while Osage Hills, Beavers Bend and Greenleaf were among state parks built in eastern Oklahoma.

"The CCC was just for openers,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. "In 1935, Congress authorized the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which built hundreds of school buildings, municipal buildings, armories and park facilities. WPA art, theater, music and writers’ projects still are part of Oklahoma’s heritage.

"When Oklahomans enter the Oklahoma City Municipal Building or the Oklahoma County Courthouse, they are utilizing WPA projects of the 1930s,” he said. "The same goes for events at the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheater, or visitors enjoying Alice Harn Park and clubhouses at Tolan and Wiley Post parks.”

All this stemmed from the Great Depression, which some Oklahomans still remember. In March 1933, one-third of Oklahoma families were on relief, and that led to the CCC. Unmarried men between 18 and 35 lived and worked in the camps. They were paid $30 a month, with $25 sent to their families. The Oklahoma State Park Commission and the National Park Service planned the CCC work in Oklahoma state parks.