In early 1935, speculation began that Door County was about to receive its own CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp, and when three federal employees visited Peninsula State Park, the creation of a camp seemed certain. After months of discussion, the first group of CCC enrollees arrived at the newly established Camp Peninsular on August 10, 1935. The name Peninsular comes from the park, which was sometimes called Peninsular State Park in early writings.
During the first week, more enrollees, as well as needed supplies like cots, buckets, stoves, and mattresses arrived. Most young men arrived from locations in Illinois and Wisconsin. The earliest to arrive at Camp Peninsular stayed in tents, though construction on camp buildings, including barracks, latrines, and a mess hall, began soon after the camp opened.
Residents of Camp Peninsular rose promptly at 6 a.m. After shaving, washing, and dressing, men were expected at 6:30 morning exercise, followed by breakfast, roll call, and inspection. By 8 a.m., enrollees were at work on their assigned projects. Enrollees were expected to work 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday. In exchange for his work, a CCC enrollee received $30 a month (though $22-25 had to be sent home to his family).
Work projects in Peninsula State Park included the creation of roads, trails, campsites, and parking lots, building a ski jump and a number of stone walls, clearing weeds and poisonous plants, and the construction of a large stone viewing platform near Eagle Tower.
Though some applauded the creation of Camp Peninsular, it was not without controversy. An ongoing criticism of the CCC was that its enrollees would disrupt nature, rather than beautify it. Another concern was that the camp would cause Peninsula State Park employees to lose their jobs. Still others argued that it was unwise to have 200 or more young men in the park, particularly during tourist season.
The ongoing controversy contributed to the inevitable end of the CCC’s presence in Door County. On June 30, 1937, less than two years after it began, Camp Peninsular closed. Several projects remained unfinished, including a stone footbridge and the foundation of a garage and machine shop. Nationally, the CCC program ended with the start of World War II, and by 1943, all CCC camps had been disbanded.
Guest Blogger Emily Irwin