By Bob Bowman
Jacksonville Daily Progress
During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) designed and constructed dozens of state parks throughout Texas.
The design of the parks was often inspired by the landscape and history of Texas itself. By the time of its disbandment in 1942, the CCC had laid the foundations for today’s parks system.
In East Texas, six orginal CCC parks still stand at Bonham in Fannin County, Caddo Lake in Harrison County, Daingerfield in Morris County, Huntsville in Walker County, Weches in Houston County and Tyler in Smith County.
At Bonham, the 261-acre Bonham State Park stands within the northern reaches of the Blackland Prairie, an area marked with grasslands interspersed by woodlands, near the Texas border with Oklahoma.
In developing the park, the CCC used the rocky, hilly terrain of the area for erosion control and rccreational purposes, and built an earthern dam to impound a 65-acre lake. Buildings of cream-colored limestone and eastern red cedar were scattered around the park.
At Caddo Lake, one of the most scenic lakes in East Texas, the CCC converted temporary barracks and a mess hall used by CCC workers to park facilities. The area’s forests and native iron ore were utilized in the park design..
Daingerfield’s park design utilized the area’s pine and hardwood forests. An 80-acre lake was also built, creating the focal point of the park.
Huntsville State Park, located within the rolling hills of the Sam Houston State Forest, is a part of the East Texas Pineywoods Region that marks the western limits of the Southern pine belt.
Because of depletion of timber resources, the CCC reforested the land with plantings of pine, sweet gum, maple, oak and dogwood. The CCC also built roads, a stone bridge, restored Lake Raven, and developed campsites, shelters, trails and other amenities.
Mission Tejas, located in the pineywoods near Weches, was the first Spanish mission in the province of Texas. The discovery of a Spanish cannon barrel led to the park’s development.
The CCC developed the Mission Tejas park in time for the Texas Centennial Celebration in 1936. A key structure built by the CCC was a commemorative log church, likely similar to one built by Spanishs soldiers in the 1690s.
Set in the Pineywoods, Tyler State Park represents a clear break from the National Park Service’s rustic style. The CCC architects displayed a familiarity with the Prairie Style made popular by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and helped usher in a modern style in the park’s buildings.
Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com