A New CCC?

National park advocates call for a new Civilian Conservation Corps to put stimulus money to work
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National park advocates call for a new Civilian Conservation Corps to put stimulus money to work

To help end the country's last great economic crisis, President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped establish the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which put millions of Americans to work building bridges, roads, and much of the infrastructure you see today in our national parks.

Now that we're plunged into a burgeoning economic crisis of similar magnitude, national park advisers are calling on the federal government to establish a new CCC. Over $1.8 billion of Obama's stimulus package is already earmarked for national parks, and some think a new CCC would help put the influx of fresh government cash to good use.

"There's a legitimate opportunity to make us part of the stimulus package," said Stephen Martin, superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, where some 1,000 CCC enrollees labored. "We have a broad need for people to work in parks. We can offer employment programs for college students -- help educate them. We require work from engineers and accountants."

The National Parks Conservation Association told Congress that a new CCC--now tentatively named the National Parks Service Corps--could provide 50,000 jobs for Americans. The 391 parks in the system have thousands of projects deemed "shovel-ready," but it's unlikely all those plans would be completed from this round of stimulus: The National Park Service backlog of maintenance projects totals more than $8 billion.

But the stimulus package has to make it to President Obama's desk before any national parks see a dime. As of today, a bipartisan coalition is still trying to broker a deal in the Senate, which is kind of like herding jaguars.

Are you ready to revisit history though some of America's greatest trails? Check out BACKPACKER's "Top 3 CCC Trails."

—Ted Alvarez

National park backers call for creation of a service corps similar to the Depression-era CCC (LA Times)