Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Between 1933 and 1942, nearly 3.5 million young men nationwide, and 195,000 in Pennsylvania, enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of his New Deal relief programs to put the unemployed back to work during the Great Depression. The CCC — nicknamed Roosevelt’s Tree Army — was to reclaim land and forests that had been ravaged by the Industrial Revolution.

Conservationists estimate that pre-Colonial Pennsylvania was covered by twenty-nine million acres of dense, old growth forest. By 1920, only twenty-five thousand acres of the original forest remained. Lumbering and clear cutting of trees had denuded thousands of square miles. Erosion of unprotected soil threatened farmers, polluted streams, and scarred the landscape, intensifying the bleakness of the Great Depression.

CCC camps, including Pennsylvania’s 113, planted more than three billion trees throughout the country. Three thousand U.S. Army reserve officers served as camp directors. Uniformed workers were required to follow strict codes of conduct similar to military service. Enrollees first attended Army camps to “toughen up” for a life in the wilderness.

Enrollees came largely from rural areas, but several cities reported a significant drop in crime as otherwise idle young men found purposeful work and economic hope. They committed to six months of service with six-month renewal options for a maximum of two years. The CCC initially enrolled a quarter-million “boys” between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, unmarried, and unemployed from throughout the nation. Next, it hired “local, experienced men” who possessed woodland experience and then World War I veterans. The program stipulated that workers send twenty-five of the thirty dollars they earned monthly to their families at home. With a standard forty-hour work week, they were encouraged to pursue job training during their free time.

In addition to restoring forests, CCC workers built state parks, dams, bridges, roads, trails, and fire towers. They also fought forest fires, tree diseases, and erosion, and assisted communities during floods. FDR proposed that the great conservation initiative be made permanent but, despite support from the American people, Congress only authorized temporary extensions of the CCC. The program ended not long after the United States entered World War II.

Two state historical markers honor Pennsylvania’s CCC workers. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission installed the first marker in 1995 at Leonard Harrison State Park, near Wellsboro, Tioga County, and the second the following year north of Trout Run in Lycoming County. Workers assigned to the Asaph CCC camp in Tioga County helped create both the Leonard Harrison and the nearby Colton Point State Parks.