A new CCC museum is planned at the Southern Forest Heritage Museum to commemorate the work of the 50,000 Depression Era workers in the state. Here young men work at the Stuart Nursery in Rapides Parish..

Hertiage Museum adding museum of CCC lore

The Southern Forest Heritage Museum in Long Leaf, La. has acquired another unique piece of history and is on the brink of starting renovations to open a Civilian Conservation Corps museum. The La Leche Lodge, a log cabin, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is the only building of its kind in the central Louisiana area.

"The presence of the Civilian Conservation Corps exhibit to the Southern Forest Heritage Museum is a perfect fit for Central Louisiana," said Kelli West, marketing manager for the Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The history of the area is directly connected to the history of the CCC and to the work they did here. Having the addition of the CCC cabin to the Museum adds to the total visitor experience when learning about the CCC and its history in the area."

Previously this building was housed on Alexander State Forest, near Indian Creek, as offices for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The initial moving of the building took around $35,000, all of which was donated. Since those donations to the relocation and renovation efforts were made, the Southern Forest Heritage Museum has received an $80,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service. This grant will be used to renovate and restore the building to near its original condition. The anticipated opening of the plain museum is the end of the year 2015. " We will be the go-to place for information on the Civilian Conservation Corps in the south," says Claudia Troll, museum director.

"I want to collect as much Civilian Conservation Corps artifacts, as many as I possibly can..." says Troll when speaking of expanding the museum. The museum is amassing a database of all members of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the state and where their camps were located. Also, many young men that were in the Civilian Conservation Corps went on to join the military, and the training and discipline they received within the Civilian Conservation Corps prepared them well for military.

"The Civilian Conservation Corps was such an important thing, it saved so many families, so many lives really," says Troll. The remarkable thing about the Civilian Conservation Corps, is the simple fact that once the bill was approved, the whole organization was up and running within three months with 300,000 young men being put to work.

The organization was established in 1933, and during the Great Depression it provided jobs for young men, as well as help restore the countries natural resources. There were 50,000 young men working in camps in Louisiana. Once time had passed it became evident that an education component was needed as well, therefore it was incorporated into the program, said Jim Barnett, project coordinator for the museum.

The young men employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps had to be between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. While employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps the young men made $30 a month and they kept $5 and sent the other $25 to their families.

The focus of the Civilian Conservation Corps was to deal with issues of soil erosion, forest conservation efforts, and reforestation. This organization had the best available technology for forestry as well as plenty of young men willing to work, and as a result lasted nine years, said Barnett.

"The Civilian Conservation Corps made such a tremendous impact on the young men that were in it and their families, and helped them get through the depression," said Barnett. "But it provided them the training, education, and medical needs they had and prepared them for World War II."

Young men in the CCC sorting pinecones at Stuart Nursery
in Rapides Parish.