Soil Conservation Works – Arroyo Grande CA


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) were called on to aid local farmers in control works for soil erosion.  Their work played an essential role in the origins of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS).  

“Farmers in Arroyo Grande, desperate to eke out a living during the Great Depression, were plowing their land to plant bean and pea crops. The unintended result was massive erosion.

‘Arroyo Grande was an eye opener’, Hugh Bennett, the first chief of the Soil Conservation Service, wrote in 1935.  ‘I can think of no other place in the United States where erosion is any worse.’

Seventy-five years later, the Soil Conservation Service is now called the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with offices in Templeton and Morro Bay. Last week, historians from the agencys Washington, D.C., headquarters toured Arroyo Grande to look at some of the nations earliest soil conservation projects.

‘They selected this area because they thought it would make a good demonstration,’ conservation service historian Douglas Helms said. ‘They wanted to prove that you could conserve the land and still have it be productive.’

‘…From 1934 to 1937, the federal government sent crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration to work with the farmers. They installed erosion-control check dams; planted trees and cover crops to stabilize damaged areas; and used terrace planting on slopes to minimize erosion.

…Successful demonstration projects such as the one in Arroyo Grande helped Bennett persuade the federal government to establish the Soil Conservation Service,’ Helms said.”  (Sneed 2010)


Source notes

David Sneed, 2010. Soil success in Arroyo Grande 75 years after erosion crisis. The Tribune. November 10.

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Location Info

Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

Location notes:

Coordinates: 35.118587, -120.590725

2 comments on “Soil Conservation Works – Arroyo Grande CA

  1. Ella Honeycutt

    Thanks for the picture and article-I donated the 1934 CCC pictures to the National Archives in California.

  2. Other New Deal projects in Arroyo Grande:

    The retaining wall below Paulding Middle School, recently restored by the Arroyo Grande Men’s Club, was a WPA project.

    There are WPA sidewalk stamps on the sidewalk along Mason Street, one of the town’s oldest streets.

    The Paulding Middle School gym, completed in 1937, was a PWA project. It served as the gym for the high school (built 1916, now demolished) that once stood on Crown Hill; local Japanese-Americans were taken to internment camps in the parking lot just outside. The high school student body gathered here on Monday, December 8, to listen to FDR’s declaration of war via radio (25 of the 58 members of the Class of 1942 were Japanese-American).

    Although razed, the CCC barracks, which stood on the site of today’s Arroyo Grande Women’s Club, would later serve as a Recreation Camp in Grover City (today’s Grover Beach) during World War II. See:

    The Orchard Avenue School, an elementary school that serves now as the math building for Arroyo Grande High School was a PWA project, co-designed by a PWA architect, completed in 1936

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