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Escapist Depression-era park celebrates 75th anniversary

Sunday - 7/10/2011, 3:44pm  ET

Camp1.jpg
(Courtesy of the National Park Service)
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Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- During the Great Depression, the push was on to create recreation areas across the country to help people escape those tremendously tough times. A local National Park was born in that era and this weekend it's celebrating its 75th birthday.

Laura Cohen is chief of interpretation at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle. "We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our 75th than to open up our historic cabin camps and have a campout," she says.

At Forest Park this weekend there was a big family-friendly birthday camp-out complete with campfire songs, canoeing and archery. It was on this weekend in 1936 that the park opened its doors for urban youth to get away from the city.

"We sold out much quicker than we thought we were going to," says Cohen. She was happy with the diverse mix of people attending the event, which was one of its goals.

"We loved seeing African American families, Hispanic families and a whole family that needed sign language interpretation."

Joining the anniversary celebration were about five or six women from Camp Mawavi, a camp for girls during the 40s and 50s. Mawavi stands for Maryland, Washington and Virginia.

"I came here starting in 1963," says Bryna Selig, from Onley, Md. She met her husband here when she was 13 years-old.

Amy Mautel Hale, from Dumfries, first came to the camp in 1951.

"This is a really special place. It's such a gift to the community and to the nation."

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