The "Waterloo area is steep, sloped, and marginal for farming," says Tom Hodgson, retired Waterloo Recreation Area park interpreter. "The soils were less productive and farms less successful. So, less desirable for farming meant more desirable for a park."
The initial "Waterloo Recreation Demonstration Area" covered nearly 12,000 acres. It's not a single, connected parcel, because some owners chose not to sell. Hodgson doesn't know the details of how the land was assembled but speculates that many were happy to have a buyer: "Some were going bankrupt, couldn't make a living at the land, and saw it as an opportunity," he says.
Under the direction of the NPS, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and later, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), unemployed workers were sent to Waterloo to build permanent camping and recreational structures and re-naturalize the area.
"Local men were employed, many from Jackson, with the project averaging 322 workers who were paid $62 a month each," says Hodgson, who worked at Waterloo from 1965 to 1980 and still volunteers with the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center and sits on the board of the Waterloo Natural History Association.