By Robert Lucke
Many people wonder why there are stone gates leading into the dumpster site in Beaver Creek Park. They are there not as an elaborate way to empty garbage.
Instead they are about all that is left of a reminder that this was the site of a large Civilian Conservation Corps complex in the 1930s. And marking history even further back, the CCC Camp was built on an older campground used by the soldiers at Fort Assinniboine for summer encampments.
The history of the camp goes hand in hand with the history of Havre.
On Jan. 10, 1934, the Havre Chamber of Commerce made an effort to secure a camp for Beaver Creek. They filed an application in December of that year, and by Jan. 27, 1935, the government had approved a 200 man camp for Beaver Creek.
On May 1, 1935, the construction contingent of the camp arrived and by the end of May there were 135 more boys at the camp.
On May 16, 1937, the camp commander addressed the Havre Kiwanis Club, telling of plans to start a pheasant raising garden.
The CCC aims for young men at camps throughout the United States were employment, rehabilitation and conservation.
Most of the money earned by CCC boys was sent home to their parents, but some they kept. They had to buy their own meals, for instance. Prices for meals were 54 cents a day with 17 of the 21 meals a week guaranteed to contain meat.
For recreation, CCC boys were allowed to use the old pool at Kiwanis Camp in exchange for work.
Many boys at the Beaver Creek Camp were from poverty pockets of the south. The wife of the fish hatchery operator, just down the road from the camp, reported that one teenage boy did not even have a name.
Only one boy was killed when the camp was in operation. On July 4, 1937 nine boys were injured and that one was killed when a truck they were riding in overturned on the Beaver Creek Road some five miles south of Havre.
In spite of vigorous protests from the Havre Chamber of Commerce, the camp was closed on Sept. 4, 1937. Some equipment was taken to the Morrison Cave CCC Camp in southern Montana and the buildings were turned over to the city and county. Many of the buildings made their way eventually to Kiwanis Camp.
Much of the work that the CCC boys did in Beaver Creek Park is not recognizable now. Things like stone bridges and telephone lines vanished years ago. However, the rock work at the fish hatchery (now the Boy Scout Camp), the trail up the side of Mount Otis, and the dumpster site rock entry gates are all recognizable to this day.
CCC boys were the first to put a woven wire fence all the way around the park.
An article in the Havre Daily News in closing the camp quotes the camp director, Robert C. Fechner.
"The abandonment will follow completion of the work program scheduled for the camp and will be in line with the policy of the CCC to reduce the number of camps throughout the United States generally."
"Enrollees pitched camp at Beaver Creek Park April 1, 1935, and since that time have been working in the 10,200 acre tract extending along a mountain stream into the Bear Paw Mountains to develop recreational facilities."
"Fechner expressed the hope that the work done by the CCC enrollees would increase the public's enjoyment of the park's natural scenery of canyons and slopes, high rock formations and rugged mountains."
"The work program recently outlined for the camp for completion before its abandonment included planting of 2,000 trees and shrubs, construction of 24 fireplaces, 14 water disposal systems and minor roads."