In the middle of Big Scrub, the Juniper Springs Nature Trail winds between the Juniper Springs swimming hole to the Fern Hammock Springs in an oasis of palmetto and oak. We visited in late September. “This complex of swimming and picnic area, campground, and trails was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).” The most iconic of the remaining structures at this park is a millhouse with a waterwheel.
The historic millhouse was built in 1935-1936 by the C.C.C. … Water flowing from the springs was channeled into a narrow sluice and then allowed to pour back out to its natural configuration.
The rushing water that poured through the sluice turned an undershot waterwheel (so named because the water ran under instead of over the wheel). That wheel, in turn, powered a generator in the millhouse that produced more than enough electricity to meet the needs of the recreation area. [ExploreSouthernHistory.com]
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1941 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 17–28. … The CCC was designed to provide employment for young men in relief families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression while at the same time implementing a general natural resource conservation program in every state and territory. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000; in nine years 2.5 million young men participated in the CCC [approx US population in 1933: 125.6 million], which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a small wage of $30 a month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families).
Roosevelt proposed the project to Congress on 21 March 1933. The program was aproved and implemented very quickly; by 1 July 1933 there were 1,463 working camps. His writing always seems to stand up to passing time admirably, remaining eloquent and motivating:
I propose to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth.
There was great public support of the CCC. “A Gallup poll of 18 April 1936, asked “Are you in favor of the CCC camps?”; 82% of respondents said yes, including 92% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans.” Perhaps wiki is not a sufficient resource to tell, but this appears to be in contrast to the WPA, which although had a similar intent “to provide one paid job for all families in which the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment”, albeit for a different demographic, “[t]here was a perception that WPA employees were not diligent workers. … Having been on the WPA made it harder for alumni to get a job because employers said they had “formed poor work habits” on the WPA.”
This is not to say that there was no opposition to the CCC, interestingly from the labor unions.
To end the opposition from labor unions (which wanted no training programs started when so many of their men were unemployed) Roosevelt chose Robert Fechner, vice president of the American Machinists Union, as director of the corps. William Green, head of the American Federation of Labor, was taken to the first camp to demonstrate that there would be no job training involved beyond simple manual labor.
And a snapshot into the state of the country at the time. In 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, the unemployment rate was around 25%.
Level of education for the enrollee averaged 3% illiterate, 38% less than eight years of school, 48% did not complete high school, 11% were high school graduates. At the time of entry, 70% of enrollees were malnourished and poorly clothed. Few had work experience beyond occasional odd jobs. Peace was maintained by the threat of “dishonorable discharge”.
[Sources: Wiki CCC and WPA. Also, Photos from the Great Depression in Washington state]
Today, the generator is gone from the millhouse and instead there are plaques describing the achievements of the CCC:
- 3,470 fire towers were erected
- 89,000 miles of telephone lines were installed
- 126,000 miles of roads and trails were constructed
- 6,459,000 man-days were expended fighting fires
- 6,660.000 erosion control check dams were built, and
- 2,356,000 trees were planted
The millhouse and waterwheel, taken by Mike
Duskywings of some sort
Another park visitor noticed this snake beside the boardwalk.
While Juniper Springs has been extensively reformed with stone edging and steps for swimming, there is no recreational use allowed other than observation from the path and bridge at Fern Hammock Springs.
The water is a vivid clear blue. Where the water bubbles up through the limestone and sand, called a boil, the vegetation is kept away by the continually shifting sand.
Here is a video (not ours) of the sand boils from the top of bridge over Fern Hammock Springs.
The wildlife was bountiful, with turtles and fish everywhere.
These last two were taken by Mike
We didn’t walk it, but the statewide Florida Trail passes through the recreation area as well.