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USA, UAW Help Improve Access to Flint River

October 1, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Throngs of community residents flocked to the new Paddler’s Landing access for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and release of 100 lake sturgeon.

Anglers and paddle-sports enthusiasts of all ages and physical abilities are enjoying better access to Michigan’s scenic Flint River, thanks in part to a $7,000 donation raised during the inaugural Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 1-D Conservation Dinner.

The funds, along with a matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), helped fuel the creation of the new Paddler’s Landing public access in Mott Park Recreation Area in Flint.

The new structure is part of an on-going, large-scale revitalization project driven by the city of Flint, Corridor Alliance Chapter (CAC) of the Flint River Watershed Coalition and other stakeholders to benefit local residents, area businesses and visitors.

Historically, river access here has been difficult. Within the city, water follows a concrete channel that provides no access, while the park’s rocky banks are not easily negotiated. It’s one reason project supporters feel the park, which draws fewer than 5,000 visits per season, is greatly underutilized.

“With the new landing and the future completion of the Riverfront Restoration project in downtown Flint, we expect this number to grow significantly,” said CAC manager Sarah Scheitler.

Indeed, the Flint River offers ample opportunities for watersports activities including canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Plus, the fishery holds largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, northern pike and panfish—in fact, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website promises anglers that the river holds the state’s best smallmouth fishing.

Paddler’s Landing provides access to a wealth of opportunities for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts to enjoy the Flint River.

A wide concrete stairway, bordered by protective boulder rip-rap, the Paddler’s Landing structure offers safe access to and from the river, even when water levels fluctuate. It includes a wooden-rail watercraft slide, as well as a transfer seat and step system to allow those with limited mobility to safely access the water.

“As part of our official ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 21, participants released 100 young lake sturgeon supplied by the DNR,” said Scheitler. “There were dozens of people, young and old, standing on the access during the release. After all the work everyone has done, it was both exciting and gratifying to see how easily and safely people could reach the water’s edge.

“Until the UAW made this connection for us, we had not had a relationship with the USA,” Scheitler noted. “And we were amazed by their ability to raise funds. The group’s $7,000 donation essentially became $14,000 with the matching MEDC grant, which was a bit more than 10 percent of the total project budget. It was a substantial donation with which we were thrilled. And we’re eager to work with the USA again on future projects.”

Though the landing is already in use, one final piece remains to be placed, according to UAW Local 659 community service representative and CAC board member Dale Snyder.

“Under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program, our UAW local is proud to be part of this fabulous project,” he said. “As soon as possible, union volunteers have plans to fabricate and install a metal handrail along the downstream side of the stairway.”

Union Volunteers Build Blinds For Physically Challenged Sportsmen

June 13, 2019 in Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

A pair of new track chair-accessible ground blinds donated to the Michigan DNR will give physically challenged hunters and wildlife watchers better access to the great outdoors.

Disabled veterans and other physically challenged outdoors enthusiasts will soon enjoy better access to Michigan’s public lands.

Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO), in partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and United Auto Workers (UAW) Ford National Community Outreach Program, donated two track chair-accessible ground blinds to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) at a recent charity event in South Lyon, Michigan.

Presented by MiOFO President Tom Jones during the Garmin Automotive OEM Technology Show and Charity Golf Outing, the structures will be placed within the Sharonville State Game Area in Jackson County, where they will be available for hunting and wildlife viewing.

The donated blinds are among a dozen such structures that have been, or will soon be, placed on public hunting lands in Michigan as part of a far-reaching program developed by MiOFO and executed by USA and UAW volunteers.

The new blinds will create outdoor opportunities for hunters of all physical abilities.

As part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation initiative, union volunteers from the UAW-Ford National Community Outreach Program donated their time and expertise to construct the blinds, according to Jones.

“Our partners’ gift of labor allows us not only to expand outdoor opportunities for individuals with health challenges,” he said, “but also to increase the number of hunters in the community, which helps ensure that public lands will always be around for everyone to enjoy.

“About 12 percent of Michigan’s land area belongs to the public,” he continued, “and with the help of the USA, UAW and MDNR, our goal is to install at least one accessible blind within every one of the state’s designated game areas.”

A project with such lofty and wide-ranging goals is a perfect fit for this partnership, said UAW-Ford Community Outreach and Veterans Initiative Coordinator Jeff Terry.

“It’s a testament to our close teamwork,” said Terry. “And to all that can be accomplished through collective bargaining for our members, as well as in the communities in which we live, play and work.”