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Setting the Stage

Establishing a location for settlement depends on both the availability of resources and the ease of transportation. In the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, the forest simultaneously provided an exceptional source of raw materials and an obstacle to farming and transport. Since settlers saw wood as an inexhaustible resource, they chose to cut at will so they could grow more crops and move more easily over the hilly terrain. This attitude toward the forest meant that by the beginning of the 20th century many of the areas mountain slopes stood bare. Most surviving trees then died during the next generation, as the Chestnut blight, a fungus originally from Asia, spread over the area.

The New Deal began the long process of reclamation and reforestation. Throughout the country the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built public recreation areas on damaged land like that in the Catoctin Mountains. These areas, called Recreational Demonstration Areas (RDAs), provided organized camps that enabled urban dwellers to escape the city and enjoy the benefits of nature. The section of the Catoctin Mountains near Thurmont, Maryland, was one of the sites selected to be developed into an RDA. Although most of the 46 RDAs established across the country were eventually turned over to their respective states for management, much of the Catoctin RDA was retained by the Federal Government as part of the National Park System. Today, Camp Misty Mount, one of the camps within the Catoctin RDA (now called Catoctin Mountain Park), is significant for several reasons. Not only is it a prime example of National Park Service rustic architecture, but it also represents a successful WPA project that continues to meet the recreational needs of individuals and organized groups from Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Perhaps most important, Camp Misty Mount has helped the forest to regrow.



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