During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt joined with Congress to create a public relief program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Designed to provide jobs and stability for young men across the country, the CCC enrolled single, unemployed men between the ages of 18 and 25 in a variety of construction projects. For their work building roads, trails, dams, and firebreaks, the men received housing, food, and $30 a month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families).
Between 1933 and 1941, the CCC assisted the Texas State Parks Board with the development of roughly fifty Texas state parks. Dozens of CCC units contributed to this park-building effort, including Company 2888, which began construction on Smith County’s Tyler State Park in 1935. The plan for Tyler State Park, designed by Ben K. Chambers and Joe C. Lair, called for the CCC to build a mess hall, water tower, boathouse, and more. The most daunting task that Company 2888 encountered was the construction of a 90-acre, man-made lake at the heart of the park. In order to build the lake, the workers had to clear substantial brush and debris, and then construct an 850-foot earthen dam. Another challenge facing the CCC was the threat posed by wildfires in the mid-1930s. Therefore, in 1936 and 1937, Company 2888 built fire breaks along the periphery of the park to defend against potential devastation.
In addition to the masonry work, dam construction, and brush clearing that Company 2888 performed, the men of the unit also found time to host dances, attend educational classes, and learn vocational trades. Smith County became a home-away-from-home for the men, and they made acquaintances with local people in the region. It was an enjoyable and rewarding time for everyone involved in the CCC, and many of the men remembered the experience for the rest of their lives.
When Tyler State Park officially opened in 1941, visitors marveled at the recreational opportunities the new site offered. Among the park's features still standing today are its original boat house, combination concession building, and bath house. In the 1970s, a flood destroyed a large portion of the park, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department rebuilt and modernized the damaged area. The park was reopened in 1975 and remains well-known for its prairie-style buildings, an architectural style not seen in other parks. With an array of outdoor activities and cabins, park goers today are able to enjoy the natural beauty of Tyler State Park.