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Environmental Work

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The WPA & Environmental Work in Maryland
(See Photos Below!)

      The WPA worked on many environmental conservation projects in Maryland.  A Baltimore Sun article from November 22, 1940 highlights some of this work: Fish hatcheries, flood & erosion control dams, fire-breaks in wooded areas, levees, retaining walls, and bulkheads ("Conservation Projects Of WPA Are Announced," p. 6).  Also, like the CCC, the WPA planted many trees in Maryland.  For example, in April of 1936 it was reported that...

     "More than 2,500,000 seedling trees have been received by the Soil Conservation Service for spring planting in Maryland...The trees are black locust, white mulberry and Siberian pea.  In addition, several thousand Asiatic chestnut will be planted later on an experimental basis, and probably some softwoods and shrubs...This planting stock will be used in the reforestation work of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps under the supervision of soil erosion and forestry experts" ("To Plant 2,500,000 Trees This Spring," Baltimore Sun, April 9, 1936, p. 11).

     In addition to the photos below, see my Patuxent Research Refuge (PRR) exhibit.  The PRR was constructed and developed with WPA labor, and has been the location of important environmental and wildlife research over the past 70+ years.  Many of the WPA-built structures at PRR are still in use today.          


Photo credits: Unless otherwise noted, all black and white photos were taken by the WPA, are in the public domain, and provided courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.  All color photos--unless otherwise noted--were taken by Brent McKee.  Click here for more information on photo credits, permission to use, and exhibit descriptions.

Above: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge ("BNWR"--about 10 miles south of Cambridge).  On September 15, 1939, it was reported that "President Roosevelt had approved a $44,062 Work Projects Administration project for development of the Black Water wildlife refuge near Church Creek, Md" ("Roosevelt Approves Project For Wildlife," Baltimore Sun, Sept. 15, 1939, p. 6).  $44,062 in 1939 is about $717,000 in 2011 dollars--a fairly generous appropriation.  I contacted the staff of BNWR, who were kind enough to review some old records they had, and found out that the WPA built 195 birdhouses, erected several miles of fence, built a 4 room house & garage for a patrolman (and repaired or improved several other structures), constructed some dikes, cleaned/cleared the surrounding waterways and wooded areas, and more.  Unfortunately--in terms of historic preservation at least--little or nothing remains of the WPA's work.  Still, the WPA played an instrumental role in the early years of BNWR, thus helping Maryland secure a very large and important conservation area.  (See BNWR's website here, and then go visit and enjoy the many activities there.)  Photo taken in 2011.

Above: A humorous warning (at least to those of us not used to a shortage of squirrels) but also a very important one.  Thanks to WPA laborers (and many other people too) the endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel has a sanctuary at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.  Photo taken in 2011.         

Above: This historical marker is on Fish Hatchery Road, north of Frederick.  It appears to be referring to the fish hatchery that the WPA made extensive improvements too, circa 1938 (see following photos).  Photo taken in 2011.

Above: Rip-rapping the sidewalls of a fish hatchery near Lewistown, Frederick County (Maryland WPA project # 66, October 1936).

Above: Continued work on the fish hatchery near Lewistown.  The description card for this photo reads: "Showing earth fish pond nearing completion.  Note character of stone Rip Rap on slopes which will pre(v)ent damages resulting from wave action."  This was Maryland WPA project #3095 (note the project # change from the last photo, possibly indicating that this is a different hatchery in the same area, or simply a second project on the same hatchery).  Photo taken November 1937.    

Above: Another view of the work on the Lewistown fish hatchery, November 1937.

Above: Still another view of the work performed at the Lewistown fish hatchery, November 1937.

Above: Oyster shell planting, out of Crisfield (Somerset County), was Maryland WPA project #531.  Photo taken in 1936.

Above: Shoveling the oysters into the water, off Crisfield, 1936.

Above: The WPA sealed abandoned mines, like this one in Allegany County (Maryland WPA project #459, 1936). Abandoned mines can (and do) cause public health and environmental problems.  Image provided courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.  

Above: A worker sealing a mine in Garrett County (Maryland WPA project #460, April 1937).

Above: Constructing a waste disposal plant in Emmitsburg, Frederick County (Maryland WPA project #76.  Photo taken August 1936).

Above: The Emmitsburg waste disposal plant, as it nears completion in March 1937.

Above: The WPA constructed this bulkhead as part of a shoreline protection project at Hooper's Island, Dorchester County (Maryland WPA project # 457, circa 1935).  Image provided courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
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