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Park Pick: CCC Legacy

Huntsville State Park visitors still enjoy the labors of Depression-era projects.

By Walt Bailey

Fading photos, old suitcases, the report of a dance held in 1937 — to Frances Dibbern, these items tell the story of a park’s birth. She and her husband, Pick, began working as volunteers at Huntsville State Park 11 years ago. Early on, Dibbern read an article on the history of how the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park. This gave her the idea of making suitcase exhibits of CCC life at Huntsville. She put her first one together in 2005, and they’ve exhibited them at the park every February since.

Aside from history, what does the park offer? To hear Dibbern tell it, quite a lot.

“The legacy of the CCC would be the activities here,” she says. “You can picnic, fish, go boating, kayaking or canoeing. You can hike, bike or ride a horse.”

Lake Raven, the lake that the CCC built for Huntsville, also offers a swim without chlorine. Dibbern describes it as “swimming in rain water.”

Park ranger Royce Blackwell says the park’s 19 miles of hiking trails offer both easy and challenging treks through dense woods. One of Dibbern’s favorite hikes leads to an intersection of the Chinquapin and Prairie Branch Loop trails. Here, the terrain transitions from piney woods to marsh, as the trail becomes a wooden boardwalk.

It’s much more than good exercise.

“You never know what you’re going to see,” Dibbern says, noting she once saw a bald eagle at one of Lake Raven’s inlets.

Huntsville State Park's Lake Raven.

The park offers many birding opportunities. Dense plant life provides rich stores of food that migratory birds need. Pileated, red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers also appear frequently to reward patient observers.

Another legacy of the CCC, the park’s group recreation lodge served as a dance hall with a jukebox during the 1940s and 1950s. Today it accommodates up to 200 guests for parties and other events. The park also offers picnic tables, tent and RV campsites, a nature center with natural history exhibits and interpretive programs on weekends.

Huntsville State Park is located 6 miles southwest of Huntsville, off Interstate 45 on Park Road 40. For information, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntsville or call 936-295-5644.


 


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