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Union Volunteers Completely Transform Vilas Park Fishing Pier

May 31, 2018 in General, Wisconsin, Work Boots On The Ground

Vilas Park

Union volunteers from the South Central Wisconsin Building Trades Council (BTC) teamed up with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) to renovate and reinstall the Vilas Park fishing pier in Madison, Wisconsin, providing better access to the lake for all.

Utilizing nearly $22,000 in funds raised by the USA’s Madison Area Conservation Dinner, union volunteers teamed up with the USA and the city of Madison to take the original floating fishing pier, which was sitting in a state of disrepair in one of the city’s materials yards, and restore it for the public’s use.

“This project was a great opportunity for multiple Union trades to come together and benefit our local community,” said project leader and South Central Wisconsin BTC President/Executive Director Dave Branson. “It’s rewarding to know that this revitalized pier will provide safe and easy access for all to participate in the sport of fishing at Vilas Park.”

Volunteers coordinated transportation of the pier to one of the local union shops where over the course of the cold, harsh Wisconsin winter repairs were made, including the installation of new decking. In preparation for installation of the renovated, now handicap accessible fishing pier, volunteers and union contractors also designed and constructed a pier abutment as well as a new sidewalk and steps on the edge of Lake Wingra in Madison’s Vilas Park, which have greatly increased accessibility to the fishing pier.

“This project is an excellent example of the impact that USA’s skilled union volunteers bring to the future of conservation and preserving our outdoor heritage,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “If it weren’t for their dedication to conservation and their community, there is a very good chance that this pier would have never made its way back to the water for the public’s use.”

More than 30 union volunteers from Ironworkers (IW) Local 383, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local 13, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Local 314, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) Local 18, International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 132, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 7, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 113 and 330 and Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 18 donated nearly 200 hours to rebuild and install the previously dilapidated pier.

After completing restoration of the pier, it was transported and installed at its new location at Vilas Park. Volunteers will soon install a new handrailing on the pier to complete this project.

WI | Chimney Swift Bird Tower

January 28, 2016 in Conservation News, Wisconsin, Work Boots On The Ground

Wisconsin Union Volunteers Build Home for Displaced Birds

As dusk’s grey subtly mutes day’s blues and golds, and shadows from behind assume the foreground, a plume of earth and ash colored birds ascends from a chimney like a rush of smoke from an evening fireplace – hundreds of them. Flittering and fluttering, twisting and turning, they stalk and eat all the flying insects they can before descending back into their rooftop home for a good night’s rest of vertically-perched slumber.

Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin volunteers built and installed a chimney swift roosting tower at Cherokee Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

Left to right: Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin Steve Ketelboeter, Elevator Constructors Local 132; Dave Branson BCTC of South Central Wisconsin executive director; Andy Shultis, Iron Workers Local 383 (retired); Antony Anastasi, Iron Worker Local 383; Spencer Statz, Plumbers Local 75; and Lisa Goodman, Electrical Workers Local 159 stand in front of the completed chimney swift bird tower at Cherokee Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

The chimney swift is a species that had to adjust to dwindling habitats. Their natural roosting places were hollow trees, but as civilization expanded, these modest birds began to take refuge in chimneys. With advanced heating methods becoming more prominent, many structures aren’t built with chimneys, and numerous existing chimneys are being capped off, creating another housing crisis for the chimney swift.

As part of Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) flagship conservation program, union volunteers from the Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin constructed and installed an 18-foot-tall chimney swift tower at Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park in Madison, Wisconsin, on Oct. 17, 2015.

“Enhancing wildlife habitats is a key component of the Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Ty Brown. “The chimney swift tower falls perfectly in line with our mission, so it was easy to say yes to this project.”

To complete the tower, 15 union members donated their expertise and more than 100 skilled man-hours on the project. First, they built the tower offsite, which included measuring, cutting and fastening wood materials together, staining the tower and building a stainless steel predator shroud for the top, according to Project Manager Spencer Statz, a member of Plumbers Local 75. Once constructed, the volunteers transported the tower to Cherokee Park on a trailer. They dug a 3-foot by 3-foot hole, 4 feet deep, placed rebar in the hole and erected the tower with a SkyTrak forklift donated by Ideal Crane Rentals, before pouring concrete for a secure base.

Project volunteers represented Plumbers Local 75, Elevators Constructors Local 132, Painters & Allied Trades Local 802, Steamfitters Local 601, Electricians Local 159, Iron Workers Local 383 and Operative Plasters & Cement Masons Local 599. Funds raised at the USA’s 2014 Madison Conservation Dinner covered project costs, and the idea came about when Statz approached a local conservation group called the Friends of Cherokee Marsh, who suggested the nesting tower.

“It all started when I was 6 years old,” said Statz. “My brother and I enjoyed fishing on the Yahara River, which runs through Cherokee Marsh. Over the next 30 years, I enjoyed rabbit, pheasant, waterfowl, turkey and deer hunting in the same area. When our (Building & Construction Trades Council) was looking for a project to do, it was a no-brainer for me; I wanted to give back to the wildlife area that brought me so many great memories growing up.”

Friends of Cherokee Marsh President Jan Axelson shared Statz’s enthusiasm for the project: “We were delighted when union workers came to us to volunteer,” she said. “We had wanted to build a swift tower, but we didn’t have the skills, materials or funding to pull it off, so having skilled union workers build it was a dream come true. They did a beautiful job, and we are totally pleased.”

Whether enhancing wildlife habitats, improving public access to the outdoors, restoring America’s parks or mentoring youth in the outdoors, the common denominator is community service, which is the heart of WBG.

“Our members live and work in this community,” said Statz. “So, I can’t think of a better way to give back to the places that made us who we are today.”