SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 1, 2013

Column: FDR ranks among the great environmentalists

(Continued)

The commonwealth of Massachusetts also received 12 million trees from among the billions we already know the CCC planted.

When you look at a stone dam, or a wooden canopy in a picnic area, it’s likely you are looking at something created by the hands of young CCC members. As a son of Revere, I benefited from their work on trips to Breakheart Reservation and Harold Parker State Park. You, too, might have enjoyed their craftsmanship and not even known it.

The greater park movement in this country began in the late 19th century to give citizens a respite from the daily grind of modern life. Only the rich at that time could visit the beautiful gardens at places like Tivoli and Versailles. For the working classes, a trip to Mount Auburn Cemetery for a family picnic was more the norm.

During the early years of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt recognized that preserving this nation’s open space, and therefore its history, was necessary to preserving a country’s well-being.

TR doubled the number of national parks and put millions of acres into land trusts. Franklin made his own mark as a conservationist by preserving and expanding upon his older kinsman’s great work.

As an American, I am thankful for Society Security, the GI Bill, depositary insurance against panics to prevent runs on the bank and the countless other New Deal programs that still benefit us today.

But the national endowment of which I am most grateful and most proud is the natural inheritance passed down to us by all those millions of young men who enlisted in “Mr. Roosevelt’s Tree Army” to labor long hours in the fresh air and hot sun for the CCC.

The CCC’s parks give us solace; its trees provide clean air; and those ponds, reservations and trails built by jobless young men down on their luck — who were once without hope — offer all of us a living, breathing reminder of what is possible when a nation is fortunate enough to have a government that cares.

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Anthony T. Guerriero of Lynnfield is a senior visiting instructor of American history at Salem State University, where a celebration of Earth Days will feature lectures and events on sustainability April 8-12.

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