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Civilian Conservation Corp Camp Charles M. Smith Trail

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Photos courtesy of Anne M. Imhoff

L-R, G. Miller, N.Sherman, C. Kletecka clearing cement pad

In the late fall of 2007 I went up to the dam overlook at Little River State Park to see how the repairs on the Waterbury Dam were winding down. As I headed back to my car I noticed, across the road in the woods, a huge river stone chimney. Intrigued, I worked my way through ferns and brush to it and saw another chimney further on. What were they doing there? Thus started a ten-year endeavor to recreate the roadways of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) Camp Charles M. Smith as a Universally Accessible Trail.

The chimneys were part of the mile long CCC Camp Charles M. Smith, that built the Waterbury Dam between 1935 and 1938 in response to the 1927 flood.

Chimney #1

Chimney #2

At the beginning, Bob Finucane provided a copy of the 1937 Army Corps of Engineers map of Camp Smith. Map in hand, Brian Lindner led me through the camp for the first time and has continued to provide insights and information about the CCC boys.

After gaining permission from Susan Bulmer, Northeast Regional Director of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the old camp roads were slowly revealed over the course of seven years. Susan encouraged and supported the concept from the beginning and assigned Barb MacGregor of her office to work as liaison. Barb and two surveyors from Charles Grenier Consulting Engineer, surveyed the entire north plateau in May 2014, mapping the most prominent camp remains on the plateau, and designed a preliminary trail alignment. Barb has also placed interpretive signs along the section of finished trail.

Meanwhile, Susan searched for funds to construct a universally accessible trail through the camp; she managed to secure funding in 2017 for the first one third of the trail. She continues to search for funding to complete the one-mile long trail. A new, larger, parking lot at the head of the trail was constructed by the state in 2015.

Every summer, 2009-2016, on alternate Saturdays, nearly 40 hardy volunteers spent about two hours shoveling inches of dirt from cement slabs, cutting down small trees, and clearing brush. Gordon Miller, the first volunteer, discovered the ‘circle of stones’ near the second chimney; Herschell Murry mowed the grass on the trails and chopped out many tree stumps; Natalie Sherman, a Wonder Woman when pulling up saplings; Chuck Kletecka and Dave Morse cut down small trees and brush; Jan Gendreau, Carolyn Fox, and Cammie Mason shoveled and pulled weeds; 13 individuals from Rebuild Waterbury cleared mess hall #50 and removed over a dozen tires from the ravine; Dave and Margaret Luce, Louisa Nufield, Willie White, Emma Howell, Joan and Erwin Devine, Gordie and Theresa Wood, Robert Dostis, Chad Ummel, Cheryl Casey, Karen and J. Miller, Elise Werth, and Fred Abraham, all worked on various parts of the trail, totaling over 100 hours of hard work.

In March 2017, the Vermont Backyard Collective, organized by Conservation Alliance members including Ibex, Outdoor Gear Exchange, and Darn Tough Socks, were looking for a place that could use 80 volunteers for a workday. On July 14th, the Backyard Collective arrived at Little River State Park and broke into work groups with the park crew. New fencing was placed around the dam overlook, drainage ditches were dug, and larger trees felled, all in one morning! The following week, Timber & Stone of Calais began construction of the first one-third of the universally accessible trail.

Unfortunately, state funding did not cover the repair and stabilization of the three 80-year old chimneys; they were beginning to show their age. Stones were falling out, the mortar eroding, cracks were beginning to appear, and moss and vegetation were growing in the fireplaces. With the help of Barb Farr, many donations, grants from Waterbury Winterfest and The Walter Cerf Community Fund were secured in 2018; the three fireplaces and chimneys were stabilized in 2019 by Mansfield Masonry.

These days, Dave Morse has taken over the spring and fall clearing of fallen leaves and pine needles on the trail, with any volunteers he can muster. The trail is a delightful, easy half hour walk through the woods and history any time of year.

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