Conserving through generations: Creating generations of travelers


By: Rachel Sicheneder

With summer drawing to a
close my crew and I ventured out to Teddy Roosevelt National Park for a
ten day spike. The last day of the trip, barred from spraying herbicide
by a misting rain, our project host took us on a tour of the north unit
of the park. In the middle of the 14 mile driving loop we stopped and
ran through the rain to a small lean-to perched on the edge of an
impressive vista. Like so many structures in state and national parks I
recognized the cut stone and well-built masonry of the CCCs.  Standing
dry beneath the roof and looking out into the mist I let my mind
wander, appreciating the view in front of me and how it gave me a sense
of place in the world and in history.

Teddy Roosevelt, the
namesake of the park, was the pioneering president for the environmental
movement. Because of his time spent in the North Dakota Badlands, where
I now stood, he started a national campaign to preserve wild places in
the U.S. Along with raising public concern he also created the Forest
Service and a dozen national parks throughout the country. His push for
environmental preservation served as the foundation of the Civilian
Conservation Corps, created some thirty years later, by his predecessor
of the same last name, Franklin Roosevelt. Millions of young men, my
grandfather included, built structures like the one I now stood in. Most
of them still stand today, ready for the next generation of the Corps
to take shelter.

As my mind continued to
wander, I began to draw new connections to Conservation Corps and my
family. For my grandfather, the Corps provided an opportunity to travel
and see parts of Minnesota and the world he would never have been able
to see in the midst of the Depression. Because of that experience he
made a point to travel with his family as well. My father still tells
tales of his family’s road trips to northern Minnesota and across the
country. As a result of those road trips my grandfather introduced my
father to the wilderness and as a result of that, my father passed his
thinking onto me, leading me to take a job with the Corps. Therefore, in
a circuitous way, my environmental focus can be traced back to the
original CCCs and even Teddy Roosevelt himself.

generally think of history as following a linear pattern, but standing
on the edge of a bluff in North Dakota, I was able to see it as
circular; from Teddy Roosevelt, to my grandfather, to my crew and I. I
don’t know where my family or I would be if my grandfather had not
joined the Cs. But I do know that generations of travelers and
environmentalists have benefitted from what started as a works program
to improve a lagging economy. My family is one of many, throughout the
years the Corps has touched millions inspiring families and generations
to get out and enjoy the world around them.