-Excerpt from Two Hands and a Shovel by Jack Hartt
Cornet Bay hides just inside Deception Pass, on the southern shore.The shores of the bay sheltered encampments of Swinomish tribal people for centuries. Caucasians homesteaded the bay in the mid-1900s, creating openings in the forest and leaving behind colorful and questionable stories of their lives on the frontier.
Eventually, a roadway from Oak Harbor followed the shores of the bay to Hoypus Point, where a ferry provided the only automobile service connecting the north end of Whidbey Island with the mainland.
In the early twentieth century, the woods at the head of the bay were heavily forested , similar to the old growth forests on the side of Goose Rock. The trees soared to 200 feet, with diameters of some of the trees well over five feet thick.
Protected from timber harvesting because it was part of the military reservation, the newly created Deception Pass State Park had a handful of trails lacing through these trails, but little else. The head of Cornet Bay provided a fairly flat bowl facing the water, separate from the handful of homes that had sprung up elsewhere along the bay.
It was this bay where Civilian Conservation Corps leaders decided to establish the first camp for Deception Pass. Called SP-3, because it was the third camp established in a Washington State Park, the military numbered the camp as 266 Company of the C.C.C.
The first camp had to start with nothing but a dense forest along the shore of the bay. Their first job was removing hundreds of large Douglas fir and other evergreen trees, then removing the stumps, leveling the ground, and developing the outline of a camp.
At the same time they needed to set up tent shelters for residency, and buildings for cooking meals and storing tools and other materials.
This first group, from Delaware, arrived in late 1933, and apparently left early,unable to handle the difficult work and distressing wet winter conditions of the Pacific Northwest. The rainfall that winter was far more than the local average, turning the fields to mud.
The next group, from New York and New Jersey, took their place a few months later in 1934. In this second camp were convicts out of prison, parolees on probation, three lawyers, a concert violinist, a classic guitarist, and a sixteen year old boy named John Tursi.
Over the years, because of crews like these, buildings grew and were refined, the camp became formalized and more comfortable. Park structures took shape, and a new highway opened up the island.