Thursday, September 13, 2012


For seven days, we’ve been wood shedding at Crossville, Tennessee, a hilly town northeast of Sewanee in the Cumberland Mountains. Although the purpose of the trip was to hibernate and work on a new young adult novel, I always manage to get in a sightseeing trip – particularly if I’m near one of the many parks that the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built when these wonderful organizations were set up by President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the Great Depression.
My father was among the numerous men who would have starved had he not been employed in the  programs that constructed bridges, state park structures, roads, and walls along highways throughout the U.S. Videos about the work of the CCC’s can be viewed at the Roosevelt State Park where Roosevelt established his retreat in the “Little White House” near Pine Mountain Ridge, Georgia. Buildings constructed of stone and other materials indigenous to the area, as well as a stone swimming pool and lodge, were also constructed by the CCC’s in that location.
Tennessee has a grand share of state parks that feature the work of the WPA and CCC’s, and Cumberland Mountain State Park near Crossville boasts of the Crab Orchard stone dam/bridge that is a magnificent landmark (shown above). It’s reputed to be the largest masonry structure constructed by the CCC. Many of the buildings in the park were built of a local rock called Crab Orchard sandstone which residents around Crossville have used to build their homes.
The Cumberland Mountain State Park contains 1720 acres on a sandstone tableland of the Cumberland Plateau. As we drove through the forest, we looked for deer, rabbit, and fox that park officials touted as local wildlife in the area.This land south of Crossville was first acquired in 1934 as a project of the Farm Security Administration to create a recreation area for 250 families selected, under The Homestead Act, to homestead in Cumberland County. They were to build a self-sustaining community and colonize this sparsely populated section of Tennessee. The town of Crossville was economically depressed for many years, but a bustling economy and many cottage industries located within the city and on its outskirts attest to the Homestead Act’s vision of future success for the area.
The famous Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville has gained popularity as “one of the top ten theatres in rural areas of the U.S.”. Established in 1965, it serves 145,000 patrons annually, offering a venue of works based on Tennessee and southeastern history and culture and featuring Appalachian themes.  We bypassed a musical based on Ginger Rogers' career as a dancer to attend the movie, "Hope Springs," but picked up a schedule for upcoming productions at the Playhouse. 
Inside the Cumberland Mountain State Park, cabins and a large Mill House Lodge are available for people seeking refuge in the outdoors, and reservations have to be made early – some as long as two years in advance! For golfers, a Jack Nicklaus 18-hole course makes the best of hills and flowing streams, and the course has a signature 7th hole that showcases layered flagstone native to the area. Visitors who work up an appetite can sample the fare at the Cumberland Mountain State Park Restaurant, open six days a week, that features a special Rib Night and Catfish Day.
From the puff I’m giving the area, you can surmise that we’re going back soon, particularly since I discovered that Byrd Lake in the park is stocked with bass, catfish, crappie, and rainbow trout. A long time has passed since I last cast a fly rod, and I’m going to retrieve mine from Louisiana when I return to Cajun country.

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