In 1964 under the direction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, people from across the country signed up for the Job Corps for a secure income and to help secure the future of many landmarks in America. Members built bridges, trails, walkways and monuments in national and state parks everywhere, many of which are still standing today.
To commemorate the hard work of these men, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will be honoring their legacy on July 18 beginning at 2 p.m. The day will include photos from the era, guest speakers and historians which have studied this important part of local past.
“As part of the war on poverty these people gave us their hard work with conservation, but they received education, reading, writing, culinary arts, and auto classes or shop and it gave them a chance to learn new skills and contribute to make it a better place,” said CGNHP Historian Martha Wiley.
In June 1965, one of the main Job Corps centers opened in CGNHP and was used as their dormitory. This center is now the park headquarters and serves as office space for the superintendent and several other park employees.
Much of the Sugar Run area of the park including the trails, restrooms, bridges, clearings and buildings are the result of the painstaking work of the women and men of the Job Corps.
At the time the workforce came to the park, Hensley Settlement was in ruins. The Job Corps spent countless hours repairing and constructing new sections of this much-loved, popular part of the park.
In 1969 President Richard Nixon closed many Job Corps locations across the country, including the site at CGNHP. Their noteworthy projects at the park are still intact for future generations to enjoy, as well as the fruits of conservation and the natural world surrounding the county.
CGNHP was one of many parks to participate in the Job Corps program in the area along with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Mammoth Cave.
Wiley is searching for members of the Job Corps from this time. If you or someone you know was part of the Job Corps at CGNHP during the late 1960’s, contact Wiley by email at [email protected] or by phone at 606-246-1051.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardmbdn.