Enduring Imprints: the Civilian Conservation Corp and Virginia State Parks

Terry Clements


The landscape of the United States is imprinted with the landscape programs of the New Deal, a presidential economic program designed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This program marked the beginning of park development and building across the United States. Using local knowledge and supplies, men enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built many of the first state-owned outdoor recreational areas across the nation. The parks reflect a lack of funds for imported materials and an abundance of on-site labor. The forms, materials and process of the existing landscapes informed the reinvention of the sites as recreational areas. The public park legacy left by the CCC began in Virginia, where these young men built the first six parks of what became a state-wide public park system. This paper discusses the making of these parks by the CCC, reflecting upon their design images and landscape types, and prevailing visions for public parks before, during and after their initial opening on June 15, 1936. These six parks span the state’s physiographic landscape: Seashore State Park hugs the Atlantic Ocean in the Tidewater, Douthat and Hungry Mother are hugged by the Appalachian Mountain Chain; Fairy Stone State Park marks the spot where fairy tears turned into crystallized stone crosses, and Westmoreland and Staunton River State Parks border rivers on either side of the state. The CCC imprinted a landscape legacy as they reinvented, reclaimed, or restored forested and agricultural lands for natural resource conservation through recreation. Study of photographs, maps, state and federal documents and on-site investigations are the basis of this review.



Clements_headshotTerry Clements, FASLA, professor and landscape architecture program chair, teaches graduate and undergraduate design, and US cultural landscape studies as well as an annual education abroad program. Her research includes urban public open space, cultural landscape studies, and women in landscape architecture. (BLA) SUNY CESF, (MLA) University of California at Berkeley.