A Classic Western Quarrel:
A History of the Road Controversy at Colorado National Monument
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Construction of Rim Rock Drive: 1931-1950 (continued)

The CCC and Federal Work Camps at Colorado National Monument, 1933-1942

The original federal work camps were established in the Colorado National Monument to ease poor economic conditions in the Grand Valley, and to provide more labor on the Rim Rock Drive project. In spring 1933, local business leaders urged government officials to assist in acquiring emergency employment relief for the Grand Valley. The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce appealed to the Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes, to include in the next emergency relief bill funding to extend the Rim Rock project through the year. The chamber stated that the project had been "immensely valuable in relieving unemployment" and that the completed road would accommodate the local region in addition to opening up a "magnificent scenic area." [322] Grand Junction's mayor, F.R. Hall, requested Albright's help in securing emergency employment relief. Hall argued that the Rim Rock project was "one of [few] Colorado projects which affords year around employment under ideal conditions." [323] In a letter to Congressman Taylor, the secretary of the Grand Junction Rotary Club, George A. Marsh, also expressed his views regarding the Monument project:

We are of the opinion that no work in Colorado could be more practical or constructive than the Colorado National Monument project, and although we would welcome forest work, we believe that there is little if any such work that could compare or surpass in economic value that of the Monument. ... Probably few government projects have been given financial aid by local communities comparable with that of our Monument. [324]

Colorado National Monument's first 200-man camp was approved in April, 1933, and was a sign that heavy federal involvement in the road project had begun. Although local park promoters still contributed funds to the road project, once the federal work camps were established, most of the major decisions about the park and the road were made by the National Park Service. Because funding was not yet available, the Park Service decided that it wanted T.W. Secrest to serve as superintendent of the camp. [325] On May 20, 1933, Company 824, consisting of a commanding officer, a medical officer, a staff sergeant, two corporals, a private, and four enrollees, was organized at Fort Logan and sent to start a camp for the Colorado National Monument. This camp was designated NM-1-C. [326] When officers arrived, mess and barrack tents were already set up in anticipation of 220 men. Water was supplied by the Fruita pipeline, and necessities were transported over newly cut roads. During the next few days, 26 LEMs and 50 Colorado Juniors from Mesa County were hired. That summer an additional 12 LEMs and 113 Colorado Juniors were employed. Camp NM-1-C was originally setup near the Coke Ovens on the rim of Monument Canyon. Due to cramped conditions, it moved to a permanent location at Camp NM-2-C at the Saddle Horn near the present site of the Visitor Center. Company 825, known as NM-3-C, was originally set up near Glade Park in November 1933. Eventually this camp moved to the base of Fruita Canyon in June 1934. Enrollees from these camps worked on sections of the Rim Rock Drive under the direction of T.W. Secrest. [327]

Life in the work camps at the Colorado National Monument included a variety of elements: army discipline, educational benefits, and work experience. The U.S. Army and the Park Service split the responsibility of camp management. The army supplied materials, uniforms, and personnel needed to train, feed, and organize social and recreational events for the enrollees. [328]

After December 1, 1933, regular army officers returned to their duties, and reserve officers supervised the majority of camps in the Colorado district. [329] While in camp, enrollees were under the authority of an army commanding officer. In some cases LEMs and other enrollees served as barracks leaders. The Park Service, on the other hand, supervised the work projects in the park. It hired a foreman and an engineer to supervise the LEMs and the enrollees while they worked on projects throughout the park. [330]

Along with the discipline, enrollees were introduced to educational and recreational opportunities. Camp NM-2-C provided classes in typing, bookkeeping and accounting in addition to woodworking and photography. It also boasted a library of 400 volumes. At one point, 80 percent of the workers were involved in aspects of the educational program in NM-2-C. Camp NM-3-C produced its own newspaper, known as Monument Murmurs, which was printed every two weeks. A stone recreation facility was built for the enrollees of NM-2-C to enjoy in their free time. Enrollees from both camps also participated in numerous intercamp athletic events. [331] In fact, a baseball diamond was constructed in Camp NM-2-C-now the Saddlehorn parking lot in May 1934. [332]

Construction was an enormous undertaking financially and physically. Between 1932 and 1937, funding from a variety of sources fueled the road project. Among those providing funds were the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, the Civilian Works Administration, the Emergency Conservation Works, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the National Park Service Emergency Roads and Trails, and regular National Park Service appropriations. [333] The road project was constructed in sections. Each camp worked on different sections, which were built as funding became available. Between July 1932 and July 1937, the sum of $528,772.27 was allotted for the construction of Rim Rock Road. Construction included rough grading of sections 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D, as well as completion of two tunnels on the park's western end. [334] By July 1937, approximately 20 gravel miles of the eventually 23-mile gravel road were completed. [335] Between September 1937 and April 1940, another $39,111.87 was allotted for construction. [336]

Laborers for the Rim Rock Road project represented federal and local labor sources. Along with the CCC, the WPA, the Public Works Administration (PWA), the Emergency Relief Administration (ERA), LEMs, and National Park camps contributed to numerous aspects of the road project. Each work group was responsible for different elements of construction and overall park development. [337] Construction and employment possibilities were contingent on the availability of funds. When funding ran out, projects were temporarily stopped and layoffs occurred. Monthly totals of men at work in the park indicated the precarious nature of employment on the project. In December 1933, for instance, there was a total of 689 men working, but in January 1934, 814 men were accounted for. [338] These monthly totals varied markedly between 1933 and 1942. Construction was also disrupted by CCC enrollment periods, which generally lasted six months before new enrollees replaced those who were dismissed.

CCC camp
Figure 4.2. CCC camp NM-1-C at present site of Monument Canyon Trail parking area. Colorado National Monument Museum and Archive Collection.

CCC enrollees
Figure 4.3. Portion of group photo of CCC enrollees and army personnel at Colorado National Monument. Colorado National Monument Museum and Archive Collection.

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Last Updated: 09-Feb-2005