Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at DeSoto State Park to open Friday

Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at DeSoto State Park to open Friday

April 15th, 2013 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Naturalist Brittney M. Hughes stands in the Civilian Conservation Corps museum at DeSoto State Park in this file photograph. The museum is housed in one of the original buildings, constructed between 1933 and late 1941.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

Take Interstate 59 south to Fort Payne exit 218, look for signs to DeSoto State Park and then follow signs to the park lodge. From there, take County Road 89 north toward the park's country store, turn left onto County Road 618 and go 1.8 miles until you see the museum on the left. The dedication is at 1 p.m. CDT.

Barring another bout with Mother Nature, the new Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at DeSoto State Park east of Fort Payne, Ala., will be dedicated and officially opened Friday.

The tornadoes and straight-line winds that hit southern DeKalb County, Fort Payne and DeSoto Park on March 18 made such a mess that park officials delayed the original March 22 dedication and opening.

DeSoto State Park's lodge and restaurant and some cabins took a beating in the storms, and most of the park was littered with downed trees and storm debris, Superintendent Ken Thomas said last month.

"It didn't affect the museum," park naturalist Brittney Hughes said last week, "but we were working on [the cleanup] all week and we weren't ready."

"At this point, it's going to be ready," she said of Friday's plans.

This year marks a milestone: the 80-year anniversary of the beginning of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

"We are so glad to finally be able to showcase this part of history," Hughes said. "It has long been a dream of many of our staff members to open a museum here, and it is finally coming true."

The park received a $10,000 grant for air conditioning, electrical power, water supplies and other renovations to the 1940-era entrance building, where visitors at the time paid admission of 10 cents for adults and 3 cents for children, officials said.

CCC camps built public parks all over the nation, including the small building and entry gate at the original entrance to DeSoto State Park, originally known as State Park #5.

CCC Company 472 Juniors worked to clear trails, construct cabins and buildings, even an airport and nine-hole golf course. Another CCC company followed a few years later.

The tiny museum building was remodeled and stocked with items over the past months to document the CCC's work.

After the dedication, the museum will operate on weekends or by appointment, Hughes said.

"I am currently interviewing some folks for the temporary job at the museum," she said. That worker will offer interpretive information, do presentations on the CCC for local schools, organizations and civic groups and help with research and archive activities.

"We are superexcited to be opening this museum, and we hope that you can visit soon," she said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.