By Jo Anne Embleton
WECHES – The legacy of Company 888 of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which helped create Mission Tejas State Park in the early 1930s, will be celebrated this weekend with a historical presentation and hands-on activities for visitors.
Park Ranger Mick Haven, who is coordinating the two-day event, said the CCC “is one of the best-lasting legacies of that generation, and it helped millions of families in the U.S. by providing skills, training and employment to men who didn't have these opportunities at home. And the work they did 80 years ago still exists all over the state with buildings and facilities that still stand today.”
In the East Texas region, their legacy can be found at Mission Tejas, Tyler State Park, Daingerfield State Park, Caddo Lake State Park and Huntsville State Park.
The Weches site was the 58th park constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, “with a couple hundred (built) in the course of the CCC,” Haven said.
According to the Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy website, the country was in “the grip of the Great Depression” when Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as president in March of 1933. “More than 25 percent of the population was unemployed, hungry and without hope (and) the New Deal Programs instituted bold changes in the federal government that energized the economy and created an equilibrium that helped to bolster the needs of citizens.”
The CCC had a two-fold goal, the site states: “Conservation of our natural resources and the salvage of our young men.”
Members of Company 888 “arrived in Weches on June 20, 1933, men from all over who signed up for six months at a time to serve wherever needed – 200 men, ages 18-24, were sent to Neches” and stayed through July, 1935, when the Mission Tejas project was completed, Haven said.
This included “the original 118 acres of Mission Tejas, the mission replica, several trails, the park road and fire towers, as well as the trees, because the area had been clearcut before they arrived,” he explained. “They planted the trees, dug up the pond by hand (and worked to control erosion and restore farmland). All the facilities we're able to enjoy today started (through the efforts of the) CCC. It's changed over the years, but the infrastructure comes from the CCC.”
This weekend's celebration includes a 10 a.m. presentation Saturday on the CCC's work on and legacy of Mission Tejas, located on Texas Hwy. 21 between Alto and Crockett.
“We'll talk about the daily lives of the men who worked (on the project), and have hands-on actvities (for visitors) as well as historical objects (from this era),” Haven said.
Sunday's guided hike highlights the different buildings and trails created by Company 888, as well as their efforts to create the park.
While events are free of charge, visitors ages 13 and older will be assessed a $2 entry fee. Hikers are reminded to wear comfortable, supportive shoes and bring plenty of drinking water.
For more information, contact Mission Tejas State Park at 936-687-2394.