Montana Conservation Corps Restores CCC Built Fish Hatchery

Local stone mason Jimmy Plovanik assists crew members with stone wall repair Tuesday. The seven-person MCC crew made much progress on the park at Big Springs Trout Hatchery this week.

This article was originally published by the Lewistown News-Argus.

Fish hatchery park gets make-over


The Montana Conservation Corps crew working on the fish hatchery make-over includes (from left) Timothy Gillispie, Helena; Eric Barr, MCC co-leader, Florida; Taggert Street, Helena; Sharanne Dement, Great Falls; Logan Callerg, Great Falls; Albert Leavell, MCC leader, Maryland; and Amanda Knorr, Helena.
Special to the News-Argus

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 11:01 AM MDT
Editor’s Note: This week, Montana Conservation Corps volunteers came to Lewistown to assist community members with the park at Big Springs Trout Hatchery. The volunteers did not just clean up the area; they also did some stonework and landscape work.

Having MCC do this work is fitting, Gies said, as it was the Civilian Conservation Corps that constructed the park in the first place.

Most of the park facilities at the Big Springs Trout Hatchery southeast of Lewistown were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in about 1936, almost eighty years ago.

The  CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 18–25.  Robert Fechner was the head of the agency. The program was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments.


Now, almost eight decades later, the Montana Conservation Corps is doing repair and renovation work at the fish hatchery park. The Montana Conservation Corps grew out of stories of men joining and serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps, stories that can be heard at coffee counters across Montana in places like the Empire Café. Tales of the accomplishments of the CCC to improve the landscape and the spirits of the young people who joined are numerous, and verging on mythical, in the best tradition of Montana.

This week, MCC workers are busy repairing the facilities built by the CCC. These MCC workers include five Montana high school students and two supervisors in their twenties. The supervisors work right along with the kids.

In two days the crew has accomplished much of the repair of rock work in the big pool, building trails and pulling weeds. They have two more days of work left. Local master stone mason Jimmy Plovanic has been right along side of this crew, showing them how to do the repair and renovation work on the stone walls. These walls are simply stacked stone, but of course, stacked in an aesthetic and lasting way. Jimmy has made a great contribution in sharing his expertise.

The project leader on the park renovation is Eric VanderBeek. Eric has been a strong leader, including working to obtain $14,000 in grant money for the project. Locals Brad McCardle, Lewistown trails manager, Clay Dunlap, retired educator, and Clint Loomis, retired educator and artist, have also worked hard on this project. All have spent countless hours on planning and implementing the project. Much credit on this project goes to Paul Pavlak a Lewistown resident who started the ball rolling on this park renovation.

Karl Gies is a member of the Big Spring Creek Watershed Association.