The CCC in Miami-Dade County
If you thought President Obama's "stimulus package" was this country's first major economic recovery plan think again. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), developed under President Franklin Roosevelt's administration, was a massive federal government effort created to combat the great depression. Over 3.5 million men enrolled in this program to get steady work. From 1933 to 1942, these young men between the ages of 17 and 25 embarked on hundreds of public works projects around the nation. From building bridges and water supply lines to surveying millions of acres and planting over three billion trees, their work was hard, physical labor. Perhaps their greatest legacy is the over 800 state parks they developed. Here in Miami-Dade County there are several examples of their work which we can visit and enjoy today.
As with many great events, good fortune played a significant part in the local CCC projects not the least of which was the presence in the area of two remarkable men: William Lyman Phillips and A.D. Barnes. Barnes was the first director of Dade County parks and initiated many of the projects as well as being instrumental in securing CCC participation. Phillips is considered the dean of tropical landscape architecture. Together with the CCC they built Greynolds Park and Matheson Hammock. But perhaps the CCC's grandest work in the county is Phillips' masterpiece: Fairchild Tropical Garden.
Fairchild Tropical Garden was a gigantic project by any standard. The CCC did the original clearing of the land, laid irrigation pipelines and spread the fill created for later planting areas. The lowland lakes and islands were all built by the CCC. They built the coral rock boundary wall and, one of the garden's favorite features, its 560 ft. long pergola. They also completed the Overlook, the Garden amphitheater, and the original terracing. This was the CCC's final project in the county. They completed the speaker's dais in the amphitheater just before the CCC closed down to go to war in 1942.
The accomplishments of the CCC are remarkable. From its success in providing relief for thousands of families during the worst economic collapse in this nation's history, to giving millions of young men a chance to learn a trade, we are all fortunate to this day for its existence. The proof is in the wonderful projects we can all visit and enjoy that are monuments to their efforts.