The Corps of Our State Parks

By Molly Ryan, SCA Interpretative Ranger for Bear Brook State Park, Wallis Sands State Park, and Odiorne Point State Park.

If you have ever visited Bear Brook State Park, you may have used the bathhouse at Catamount Pond, hiked one of the over 40 miles of trails, or rented a restored cabin at Bear Hill Pond. One attraction you may not have noticed, is the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum.

A Civilian Conservation Corps patch. Courtesy of the CCC Museum at Bear Brook State Park, open every Sunday June-September from 2-4pm and upon special request.

During the Great Depression in 1933, President Roosevelt established the CCC  to help rebuild the American economy, and our natural resources. Young men from the age of 17-28 were employed by the CCC to work on infrastructure and conservation projects. Pay was $30 a month, with the stipulation that $25 would be sent back to the man’s family. Housing, food, education, and medical care were all included, as well as all the training and tools necessary to complete CCC jobs. Nine years later in 1942, the CCC program would be ended by congress as the U.S. entered World War II. However, during those nine years, three million men had participated, 3 billion trees had been planted, and over almost 2,000 camps had been established throughout the U.S.

An example of a CCC camp.
Partial photo of the 1123rd Juniors who served at Bear Brook. Photo from The History of East Allenstown, New Hampshire & Bear Brook State Park.

During those nine years, the CCC was hard at work at the Bear Brook Reservation (modern day Bear Brook State Park). They built Bear Hill Pond Camp, where you may now rent newly restored cabins, as well as Spruce Pond Camp, currently in use by the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps. The park’s day-use beach and bathhouse at Catamount Pond and such popular trails as Broken Bolder were also built by the CCC.

Original Broken Bolder Trail sign. Photo from The History of East Allenstown, New Hampshire & Bear Brook State Park.
Catamount Pond and bathhouse. Photo from The History of East Allenstown, New Hampshire & Bear Brook State Park.

Today, the story of how these feats of construction and trail work were completed is laid out in the CCC Museum on Depot Road in an original CCC camp building. Bear Brook’s CCC camp is a registered historic district and is the only surviving one of its kind in New Hampshire.

Sign commemorating the CCC’s work at Bear Brook. Found at the CCC Museum.

At the museum, you can find examples of CCC camp life. How these men from all walks of life lived and worked together. Much of their training mirrored standard military training at the time. They lived in barracks and followed a strict schedule. However, the majority of men left the CCC healthier and fitter than before, benefiting from good food and hard work during a time in America when both were hard to find.

An inside look the CCC Museum, a former CCC camp dining hall, at Bear Brook State Park.
Pennant banners on display at the museum.

So, the next time you visit Bear Brook State Park, stop by the CCC Museum, open every Sunday June-September from 2-4pm and upon special request, and discover the personal stories of the men who built New Hampshire’s state parks.

Follow this sign and stop on by!

Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

One thought to “The Corps of Our State Parks”

  1. 20+ years ago a CCC alum taped conversations with other men about their experiences. My dad was one of the interviewees. I was told I could a copy of the tape, but never heard from anyone after I sent the request. I would be happy to pay for the copy and my family would love to hear my dad tell these tales again.

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