In the 1930s the Clifton Forge Chapter of the NAACP requested that the forest service construct a recreation area for used by African-Americans in the area. During this era, segregation in America was the norm, and African-Americans were prevented from using forest facilities. The plans for the specially requested area was approved in 1936 and construction on Green Pastures Recreation Area began in 1938. On June 15, 1940, the area was dedicated and open to the general public. Green Pastures was one of the few “colored only” recreation areas in the United States. At that time, Green Pastures was under the administration of the Glenwood Ranger District on the Jefferson National Forest. Even before construction was finished the area was being used by African-Americans from Covington, Clifton Forge, Lexington, Alleghany County, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and other surrounding localities.
Green Pastures was built by the Dolly Ann Civilian Conservation Corps Camp F24. Some of the men who helped build Green Pastures still live in the area, and visit today’s Longdale Recreation Area on a regular basis. Memories take them back to their days in the CCC and how they came together to build a new nation in the wake of the Great Depression.
The bathhouse, picnic shelter, and the two restroom facilities are all original CCC buildings. The dam is also an original structure that was built by hand. The CCC enrollees worked around the clock using simple tools and wheelbarrows to transport cement to the area.
During World War II, Green Pastures was closed. The Forest Service utilize this time to make improvements and expand the area. It reopened in 1948 for public use. Also in 1948, when the James River Ranger District was formed, administration of Green Pastures was transferred to the George Washington National Forest. In 1950 when the military integrated its soldiers, Green Pastures became available to all people regardless of race.
On April 26th, 1963, Green Pastures name was officially changed to Longdale Recreation Area. The name was changed so that the area would be welcoming to all persons, while many names were suggested, Longdale Recreation Area was selected because the community near the entrance to the area had been called Longdale for many years and is a well-known local landmark. To this day, however many people still refer fondly to the area as Green Pastures.