A turning point
The CCC, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to put young men to work during the darkest days of the Great Depression, was to build an outdoor recreation complex in what would become known as Kanawha State Forest in 1938.
Workers constructed a camp where they lived seven days a week while working on projects throughout the region, Dials said.
The site at the mouth of Shrewsbury Hollow was dubbed Camp Kanawha and occupied on April 6, according to Carlson's book.
About 200 young men occupied the camp from 1938 until it was disbanded in 1942, McLaughlin said. Many of the men went off to fight in World War II.
CCC members began to polish what McLaughlin referred to as the "jewel of Kanawha County," transforming it from an industrial wasteland into an outdoor recreation facility used by thousands of people each year.
They removed old coal tipples, industrial equipment and abandoned houses, McLaughlin said. They also built roads and a dam on Davis Creek, Dials said.
Workers built five of the forest's 10 picnic shelters. The iconic CCC-style shelters that can be seen at project sites around the country are made of oak and chestnut harvested from the area as well as rock quarried right on site, Adkins said.
Dials estimated the CCC cleared about 25 miles of the forest's 50 miles of walking trails.
"And they did conservation work here like planting trees, and they may have even stocked game," Dials said.
The dam on Davis Creek created a small lake. Many locals used it as a swimming area. Sand was trucked in and placed along the lake's shoreline to simulate a beach, Adkins said.
"I've seen pictures of the swimming area, and it looks like it was crammed full of people," Dials said.
It was closed in the 1960s after the swimming pool was built, he said. It is now used for fishing and has been named Ellison Pond.
The fishing area is restricted to handicapped individuals and children 10 or younger from the beginning of March to the end of May, Dials said.
"We stock it with trout a couple of times during those months," Adkins said.
Activities for all
The forest increased to 9,302 acres after the purchase of 2,500 acres in 1973. It is also a public hunting area.
"This is the premier outdoor recreation opportunity for the Charleston area," Dials said.
Hikers often head out on the 50 miles of public trails, and bicyclists are seen throughout the forest, Adkins said.
"I'd say the bikers are the largest group of people we have in the park now," he said.
Irish road bowling events are also held there, and a shooting range is popular.
"And we have an archery range, too," Dials said.
The pool should be reopened next spring. It sustained damage during the June 29 derecho.
There also are playground areas.
"This is a family forest," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin, 65, of Cross Lanes, works with troubled youth for Kanawha Circuit Court.
He brings some of the juveniles to Kanawha State Forest to see what recreational opportunities the area has to offer and to hear Dials speak.
"Kevin (Dials) talks to them about jobs at state parks," McLaughlin said.
The juveniles also take hikes, he said.
Such an introduction is often all it takes to create a forest fan, and that's what officials are hoping will come of the quiet birthday party.
"If anyone spends half an hour here, they'll be coming back," Superintendent Ernest Adkins said.