Early on, CCC workers built Camp Waterloo on Maute Road to house the men who would be working on the project. The second undertaking was the development of the beach and day use area of Portage Lake. Early workers also created fish rearing ponds and roads through the future recreation area.
"Although some power equipment was available, the bulk of the work was done by hand," says Hodgson. "The primary tools were the axe, pick, and shovel. The primary vehicle for transporting materials such as sand and gravel was the wheelbarrow."
The site consisted of mostly open fields of farmland, dotted with fences and homesteads. The CCC and WPA workers "planted thousands of trees to help heal the land from erosion, and areas were allowed to go back to their natural state," says Hodgson. In the early years of the park, the NPS planted more than 350,000 trees covering 1,000 acres. Native shrubs and grasses were planted throughout the property as well. In all, the federal government spent more than $2 million in reclaiming land and repurposing it for recreational use and wildlife refuges.