Betty Thompson grew up in Georgia, far from California and confined by cerebral palsy to a wheelchair. As a girl, Betty, now age 66, was captivated by her father’s stories about life and work in Humboldt Redwoods State Park as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. Betty has since dreamed of visiting the ancient redwoods, and this week her dream becomes reality. Thanks to support from her congregation at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur and donors to her Crowdrise campaign, Betty and a small support team will arrive in Los Angeles tomorrow to begin their journey up the coast, through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge and north to Humboldt Redwoods!
It’s humbling to know that Betty’s lifelong dream has been to visit forests that our forbears at Save the Redwoods League helped preserve, and that she’ll have the opportunity to appreciate the park that her late father, Raymond Thompson, helped to build.
Many of our beloved California redwoods parks wouldn’t be what they are today without CCC, a New Deal public works relief program that employed young men ages 18 to 28 to work on conservation-related construction projects and in natural resources management on government lands. Three million men (including both my father and Betty’s) planted an estimated three billion trees and built much of the infrastructure in 800 parks nationwide — hiking trails, visitor centers, access roads, outdoor theaters, cabins, campgrounds, diablo stoves, scenic overlooks and footbridges are just some of the CCC features still in use today at Humboldt Redwoods and parks all across America.
The CCC program ended in 1942 as the country mobilized for World War II, but its legacy endures — and not just in the park features that that Corps members built. The CCC has served as a model for present-day conservation programs across the country, including the California Conservation Corps and the Student Conservation Association (SCA).
This summer, an SCA crew will help restore trails in Humboldt Redwoods’ Garden Club of America Grove that were destroyed in the Canoe Fire of 2004. If you or anyone you know might be interested in joining or learning more about the SCA or a conservation corps in your own state, please visit the SCA or Corps Network websites.
Save the Redwoods League wishes Betty and her team all the best as they visit the redwoods this week, and we extend our thanks and appreciation to her Crowdrise donors and Atlanta’s Oakhurst Baptist Church, a leading force for racial equality, women’s rights, homelessness, gay and lesbian rights, peace and justice, and disability rights since the 1960s.
If you would like to learn more about Betty Thompson or send her your best wishes, you can reach her and follow her journey to the redwoods on her blog, Betty’s Circle of Friends.