View of The Spruces - Big Cottonwood Cyn UT
The Utah Outdoor Association, working with the local Forest Service office in the Wasatch National Forest, created the Community Camp in 1921. It was built on the site of a former tree nursery put there c. 1900 to reforest Big Cottonwood Canyon, which had been completely denuded of trees in the 19th century to build early Salt Lake City.
In 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) added many new facilities to the Community Camp, including more campsites, tent platforms, baseball fields, horseshoe pitches and a volleyball court. A ski jump and toboggan slide were added in 1936-37 at the mouth of Day’s Fork, behind the campground — thanks to Utah ski legend, Alf Engen, who was foreman of the project. The physical remnants of these have almost wholly disappeared, as the campground has been expanded, paved, and improved.
Two permanent CCC structures remain. One is an open log structure used for group activities, with large stone fireplace, table, benches and counter; it is still in use as Group Area #9. The other is a large cabin for camp personnel, which is closed and has not been used for many years, according to camp staff.
The Community Camp was renamed the Utah Outdoor camp sometime in the 1920s and subsequently named “The Spruces” in the postwar era. It remains a popular campground, run by a private contractor for the Forest Service. There are plaques, brochures or other historical information, hence no mention of the CCC. But camp staff are aware of the CCC’s role, which is also mentioned on a plaque at the Stone Mountain amphitheater farther down the canyon.
Charles Keller, The Lady in the Ore Bucket: A History of Settlement and Industry in the Tri-Canyon Area of the Wasatch Mountains. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2001. p. 296
[Keller 2001 relies, in turn, on reports from the Salt Lake Tribune of December 6, 1936, January 9, 1937 and May 30, 1937.]
Kenneth Baldridge, The Civilian Conservation Corps in Utah: Remembering Nine Years of Achievement, 1933-1942. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2019.
"Soldiers of Forestry in Big Cottonwood Canyon", Wayside Trails of the Wasatch, one page flyer from the Citizens Committee to Save Our Canyon, Salt Lake City UT, c. 2019.
Project originally submitted by Joan Greer on March 15, 2017.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
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