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Union Led Wolftever Creek Project Enhances TN Fishing And Boating Access

May 11, 2018 in General, Work Boots On The Ground

Spanning more than 36,000 acres, Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga is a popular destination for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts from within the state and around the country.

Fishing is a prime draw. The scenic reservoir is consistently ranked among the nation’s top bass fisheries and currently holds the Tennessee state records for both largemouth and spotted bass. Recreational boating, waterskiing, kayaking, swimming and camping also attract thousands of visitors each year. Unfortunately, funds to maintain and enhance public access to this crown jewel of the Tennessee River system are chronically tight.

To help remedy the situation, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a dedicated team of union volunteers stepped up to complete a major overhaul of one of Chickamauga’s busiest access points, the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp adjacent to Harrison Bay State Park just outside of Chattanooga.

The renovation expanded year-round public access by replacing an existing dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.

Before Photos:

Union volunteers donated approximately 300 hours of labor to demolish the old dock April 7, install the new pier April 21 and align the structure on April 28. Volunteers also replaced damaged and unsafe floor boards and the top rail of a fishing pier adjacent to the boat launch.

The final phase of the project, set for completion by the end of May, includes the installation of an additional handrail on the pier abutment and transition plates between dock sections. In the meantime, the pier is open for use.

The project was part of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, which brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and talents to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The WBG program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.

The Wolftever Creek project was conducted without the use of state game and fish funds. Materials were purchased with $10,000 raised by United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 42 and $22,000 in federal marine fuel tax revenues from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). All union labor was donated.

The project originated when UAW Local 42 expressed interest in taking on a community-based conservation project, and USA research revealed strong public support for improvements to the Wolftever Creek ramp.

Demolition & Renovation Photos:

“Unions are always looking for ways to get involved and improve their communities,” said UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran. “The Wolftever Creek boat ramp was one of the most heavily used access points to the lake, but it was really unsafe and unusable in the winter due to low water levels. Replacing the boat ramp is a project that UAW Local 42 really wanted to get involved in to benefit the public and demonstrate that we care about our community.”

Along with UAW Local 42, participating union members also represent the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 175, Ironworkers (IW) Local 704 and Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 5.

“The Wolftever Creek project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This dock benefits thousands of fishermen and other recreational boaters who use the Wolftever Creek boat ramp. It not only improves the aesthetic value of this location but provides improved and safer access to all who utilize it.”

TWRA officials were grateful for USA and union volunteers’ assistance in making the Wolftever Creek ramp renovation a reality faster than limited state budgets and manpower could have allowed.

“The donations and hard work of the Union Sportsmen allowed us to accomplish this project more quickly,” said Capt. Matt Clarey, who oversees boat access areas and ramps for TWRA Region III. “We’re pleased to work alongside such great citizens. This partnership will benefit Tennesseans for years to come.”

UAW Local 42 Vice President David Gleeson noted the added benefits of having union members from different trades join forces in pursuit of common goals such as conservation and community service.

“Volunteer projects like the one at Wolftever Creek build comradery and enable members of various union trades to discuss issues,” he said. “We had ironworkers, sheet metal workers and auto workers. But at the worksite, we were all just workers. Nobody had a big head. We just helped one another out with what needed to be done.”

After Photos:

USA And Pheasants Forever Complete First Collective Conservation Project

April 30, 2018 in Press Release

Forever Fields

“Forever Fields” Observation Platform Helps Public Enjoy Wildlife

A team effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Pheasants Forever (PF) and local union volunteers created a new viewing platform and observation deck on PF’s “Forever Fields” property in Knox County, Illinois, that will help visitors enjoy and better understand wildlife that relies on grassland and wetland ecosystems.

“This new structure will increase public awareness about conservation and educate visitors about a variety of wildlife species and their habitat needs,” said local Pheasants Forever biologist Scott James. “It will also provide users a higher quality experience for observing nature. Visitors can listen for singing birds and croaking frogs, watch wildlife, observe prairie grasses swaying in the wind, and overlook the peaceful landscape.”

The USA and Pheasants Forever signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March 2017 allowing the two organizations to team up on conservation and habitat projects, mentored hunts, volunteer training and education. The first joint project to be completed since the MOU was signed, the new tower includes an ADA-compliant, handicap-accessible ramp, 4-foot-high wildlife viewing deck, and stairway leading to an observation platform that rises 11 feet above the surrounding landscape.

“The property is open to the public and we encourage everyone to visit,” James added. “We also plan to accommodate schools, groups of people with disabilities, scout groups, and other community organizations, specifically by hosting events on and next to this new platform.”

PF began construction of the project and purchased the materials with funding support from the USA. The USA brought together volunteers from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) Local 237 and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 649, who were instrumental in helping complete the project in time to qualify for Illinois Clean Energy grant funding. Union volunteers donated 16 hours of labor while building a stairway to the observation deck and railing along the deck.

“It’s a blessing to share our God-given skills and time with our community,” said Matt Bender, a carpenter and business representative with UBC Local 237 who took the lead to recruit volunteers and complete the project. “This is a beautiful area. We’re glad to be part of making it accessible for everyone to enjoy.”

James said his organization is thankful for such support. “The time volunteers spent on this project is greatly appreciated,” he said. “The support from USA allows the construction expertise of its union members to supplement the biological and conservation expertise of Pheasants Forever so that higher-quality projects can be achieved. Pheasants Forever is very grateful for the support of USA and union volunteers on this project, and we are excited to work together on future projects. This partnership can only strengthen conservation and our hunting heritage.”

“The Forever Fields project is a great example of how partnerships, like the one formed between the USA and Pheasants Forever, result in more on-the-ground impact for conservation while opening up new opportunities for unions to improve their communities,” said Forrest Parker, USA director of conservation and community outreach. “We are grateful for our partnership with Pheasants Forever and for the members of Carpenters Local 237 and Operating Engineers Local 649, who volunteered their time and skills to complete this first joint project.”

USA Family Outdoors Day Celebrates Ron Schneider Boat Ramp at Minnie Ha Ha Park

April 30, 2018 in Missouri, Press Release

Ron Schneider Boat Ramp

More than 250 people gathered on Saturday, April 28 at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, Missouri, for Family Outdoors Day, hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Missouri American Water.

The community event included fishing, lunch, live music by the Greg Haney Group and kid’s activities, and the first 150 youth received a fishing rod and reel, courtesy of Pure Fishing.

A ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. marked the official opening of the park’s new, non-motorized Ron Schneider Boat Ramp constructed by union volunteers from Missouri American Water and Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 335, through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program.

The Ron Schneider Boat Ramp was funded through a $35,000 grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation to improve access to water-based recreation activities. It was named to honor a long-time UWUA Local 335 member who led the first ramp rebuild.

“City parks play a vital role in providing large populations with access to the great outdoors, yet tight budgets can make it difficult to maintain park infrastructure,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “American Water and our skilled union volunteers worked hand in hand to complete the new boat ramp despite weather-related setbacks. The project and Family Outdoors Day are a testament to their commitment to improving their community.”

The Ron Schneider Boat Ramp was completed for the second time on August 13, 2017. In early 2017, union volunteers donated approximately 250 hours to tear out and replace the original ramp, which was built in the 1940s and in poor condition. Less than a week after it was completed in May of 2017, catastrophic flooding damaged 90 percent of new structure beyond repair. Undeterred, project leaders devised a new design to stand up to flood waters from the Meramec River.

“The American Water Charitable Foundation and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance have really done something great for the community of Sunset Hills with this boat ramp,” said Cheryl Norton, president of Missouri American Water. “I am so proud of the work of Missouri American Water’s employees in helping to get this new boat ramp built – not just once, but twice. Having the flood wash away the first boat ramp was disappointing, but to see the way all the groups came together to persevere and rebuild really shows our collective commitment to this project and this community.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Celebrates Milestone Conservation Achievements

April 12, 2018 in General, Press Release

conservation

Franklin, Tenn. — In 2017, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) eclipsed every mission-delivery and fundraising record ever set in the history of the conservation organization.

Throughout the year, the USA’s staff of 18 dedicated professionals joined forces with union volunteers to complete 27 conservation infrastructure projects in 15 states through its Work Boots on the Ground conservation initiative. These projects provided a value of more than $240,000 in skilled labor and a total project value of nearly $500,000.

“This past year has been nothing short of amazing for the USA, and we owe it all to our dedicated members, skilled union workers and extremely hard working staff,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance. “We celebrated numerous organizational milestones, including our 10-year anniversary, but we also set records in the areas that are most important for a nonprofit— we put a ton of resources on the ground and saw our mission delivery work truly make a difference.”

The USA was created in 2007 with a mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. Over the past 11 years, the organization has rapidly put that mission and powerful workforce into action.

With volunteers that both raise funds to improve access to the outdoors, conserve natural resources and pass on our outdoor heritage and put their union trade skills to work on the ground, the dollars raised become substantially more impactful. This unique skill set and the ability to access millions of skilled union workers across the nation makes the USA’s potential impact unmatched in this arena.

“The USA is in a unique position in that our volunteers are skilled workers who can take a pile of materials and turn them into something meaningful for other hunters and anglers,” said USA’s Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker. “This year we had 646 volunteers who provided 7,445 hours of volunteer service— 5,400 of which were skilled work hours.”

One USA milestone came to fruition in November when the organization finished its 100th Work Boots on the Ground project. Volunteers from the Washington DC area spent six weekends tearing off 60-year-old boards, carrying 200 pound timbers and reconstructing a dilapidated fishing pier at the National Park Service’s Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia. The value of this project alone was worth more than $100,000 of skilled labor, materials and volunteer time that the National Park Service did not have available until they teamed up with the USA.

In addition to growth in its mission delivery, the USA took on several strategic partnerships in 2017 that will allow the organization to be even more impactful in 2018. The USA’s new partners include Realtree, Worldwide Trophy Adventures, Pure Fishing, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, OUTTECH and Milwaukee Tool. Even though the USA experienced a record breaking year of fundraising and mission delivery, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

“The USA is in a strategic growth period,” said Vance. “We will remain a lean organization in regard to staff size, but we are executing a plan to significantly grow our mission delivery efforts. Fueling our hardworking union members’ efforts through partnerships with like-minded conservation powerhouses allows us to focus on, and increase, the great work that’s being done every day by union men and women across the United States.”