From fishing resort to summer camp to public rec area, Hay Hollow still draws visitors
Editor’s note: This feature continues the series by Ozark County Times reporter Jessi Dreckman and former report Amelia Lamair describing a hidden-away bit of history in the Mark Twin National Forest just north of Ozark County in the community once known as Siloam Springs.
Hay Hollow, in the Mark Twain National Forest just north of the Ozark/Douglas County line, has attracted many visitors throughout its rich history. Today the area attracts hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians with its well-maintained trails and abundant natural beauty. Back in the 1950s, when Walter and Ruby Braddock opened a hunting and fishing resort on their farm there, the Hay Hollow area became a destination for locals as well as tourists to “get away from it all” and enjoy nature. Later, beginning in 1971, the area hosted young women, and later, men, at a Youth Conservation Corps camp that taught them forest management and the value of hard work.
James Murrell, who began his career with the National Forest Service on March 31, 1971, the day before his 21st birthday, and retired from the organization in 2011, remembers fondly his time working at the Hay Hollow YCC camp.
“I was a crew leader there from about 1973 to 1978,” Murnell told the Times recently. “My main job [with the Forest Service] at that time was working with the range program, grazing and that sort of thing, and then in the summers I spent my work days over at the camp.”
The YCC program at Hay Hollow continued as a successful all-female program until 1980, when the camp became co-ed. Additional dorms were built on the property to house the male campers. The co-ed camp at Hay Hollow ran through 1985, when Congress cut funding in the YCC program to such a small amount that most camps closed.
“Basically what happened was that Congress decided they had other things to do and basically cut most of the funding. They had a small budget after that. The YCC program is still active now, but it’s nothing like it was before. Instead of a camp, people just drive in to work for the Forest Service. The days of the YCC camps like Hay Hollow are over.”
Murrel says he still stays in contact with a few campers from the Hay Hollow camp, speaking with them periodically. He said he was especially proud of one camper in particular, Christine Swanson, who went on to become a forest supervisor at another national forest district.
“I went to a training session while I was still working for the Forest Service one time, and I ran into this lady. She said, ‘Do you remember me?’ At first I didn’t, but then it clicked, and I remembered having her as a camper at Hay Hollow.”
Murrell still lives at the same residence, just a short drive from the Hay Hollow area. Although he hasn’t been back to the area in many years, he says he still thinks back fondly on the memories of the summer camp days – as so many campers surely do as well.
Today’s YCC experience
The original Youth Conservation Corps camp at Hay Hollow provided fun and educational opportunities to everyone involved. Although the camp is long gone, young people interested in conservation can still find similar opportunities today.
In addition to the Youth Civilian Conservation Corps that ran the Hay Hollow camp, the National Civilian Conservation Corps and the Student Conservation Association provide opportunities for young people to serve their country by working in conservation.
According to its website, “The U.S. Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer youth employment program that engages young people, ages 15 to 18, in meaningful work experiences on national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries. Youth are engaged in fun, exciting work projects designed to develop an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility such as building and repairing trails; preserving and repairing historic building; removing invasive species; helping with wildlife and land research; and leading environmental education.”
The YCC offers both residential and local programs that last from two to 10 weeks. Crew members generally work full 40-hour weeks and earn minimum wage. The U.S. Forest Service also offers a Resources Assistants Program, described as “a rigorous, immersive, paid internship for individuals interested in Forest Service careers.”
Geared for 18-24 year olds, the National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) is a branch of Americorps, a national service organization that is sometimes referred to as the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Teams of around 10 NCCC members spend 10 months together, traveling around the country working on a variety of projects to benefit the communities they visit. Some tasks include constructing and repairing hiking trails, removing exotic vegetation, planting trees, and educating citizens about sustainability.
In addition to addressing environmental conservation issues, NCCC members help communities with disaster recovery and preparedness, infrastructure improvement, energy conservation and urban and rural development. Room, board and transportation are all provided to Corps members. At the end of their 10-month term, members are eligible for the Segal Americorps Education Award, which generally amounts to about $5,900 and can be used for education costs, including tuition and student loan payments.
The Student Conservation Association also provides team and individual opportunities, from trail maintenance and restoration projects to historical interpretation and wetland monitoring, as well as programs for veterans interested in conservation careers. SCA project members may also qualify for the Americorps benefits.
These conservation teams can occasionally be spotted in the Ozarks. Starting in late May, two small YCCC crews worked in the Salem and Eleven Point Ranger Districts of the Mark Twain National Forest, building trails, doing clerical/office support, maintaining and cleaning up campgrounds and improving wildlife habitat. For the past several years, NCCC groups have visited West Plains to lend a hand at the West Plains Community Garden and Health Haven Botanical Garden.
This spring, the team also stopped in Mountain View to help renovate a building for House of Abigail, which advertises its mission as seeking to “break the cycle of trans-generational poverty, poor health, teen pregnancy, joblessness and other struggles commonly seen in impoverished pockets of the Ozarks.”
These examples show that, while memories, yearbooks and a rock wall are all that remain of the YCC camp at Hay Hollow, the spirit of conservation and community service can still be found throughout the United States.
Continued next week.