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Leave A Springtime Legacy: Get Kids Involved In Turkey Hunting

April 8, 2020 in Articles, General, Hunting

USA Strategic Accounts Manager Sam Phipps shares his hunting success with son Rylan.

By Dr. Brooks Tiller

Gobbles boom like thunder, budding blooms fill the air with a fresh aroma and green sprouts break through the forest floor as springtime gives newness to the woods. Turkey season is an invigorating breath of fresh air. It also provides a great opportunity to get kids involved in the outdoors.

To help you get youngsters interested in hunting and the outdoors, we offer the following advice from a trio of parents who’ve gotten their young guns off to a great start.

Author Brooks Tiller keeps it fun when hunting with son Thor.

In 2019, I took my son, Thor, (age 3 at the time) on his first hunt. My main goal was for him to have fun. I watched the weather for a nice warm afternoon and planned an excursion to the farm. He helped me pack some snacks, toys and a coloring book. He had his own binoculars and brought along his bow.

We set up in a blind overlooking a green field just a few hundred yards away from the truck. As we sat in the blind, we put on face paint and enjoyed a snack. But after less than 10 minutes in the blind, he was ready to explore. He pulled out his markers and a piece of paper and drew a map before we took off on an adventure. I allowed him to lead me through the woods, across creeks and around fields. Along the way, we stopped to look through the binoculars at birds, tested our balance along fallen trees, threw rocks, and drew our path on the map as we walked. As we explored, we came across a few good spots to hang a stand next year.

Sam Phipps, USA’s strategic accounts manager and a member of United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, is taking a similar approach in introducing his two sons to the outdoors.

“If you force them to sit out there uncomfortably all day long, it may actually drive them away from hunting,” Phipps said. “But make it fun, and they will want to get up and go again.”

Phipps suggests packing with the kids in mind. Bring a few toys, books and snacks. Make it comfortable by choosing a nice day and comfortable seats in a blind, so they can move around. Even lay a sleeping bag out and let them take a nap if they want. No matter what, remember why you love it and why you want to pass it on. 

“The main thing is to go out there and make memories. Filling your tag is a bonus,” Phipps added.

Early outdoor adventures set the foundation for decades of family hunting and fishing trips for (from left) USA Public Relations Manager Dan Johnson, sons Jake and Josh, and daughter Emily (not pictured).

Dan Johnson, USA’s public relations manager, former United Auto Workers Local 879 member and a current member of the Machinists union, said that when his sons and daughter were younger, he encouraged them to help organize outdoor adventures.

“At first, I would plan everything, but as they got older, we figured it out together,” he said. “Eventually, I turned over the planning to them. They would gather their gear and choose destinations for us to hunt, fish and explore.”

Inviting kids to be more involved teaches them responsibility and allows them ownership in the adventure; they graduate from tagging along to being a critical part of the hunt. While immediate “success” rates in terms of game and fish taken may decline, the memories created and long-term benefits far outweigh any such shortfalls.

“The more the kids got involved and took a leading role, the more they anticipated each new excursion,” Johnson continued. “I’m extremely thankful for the fun we had and how it helped foster a lifelong love of the outdoors. And as a bonus, even though they’re grown now, all three are still happy to take time from their busy lives and union careers to join me on hunts, fishing trips and other getaways.”

Turkey hunting provides a unique setting to teach our kids hunting ethics and safety. More than sitting still in the cold, we call and listen for an answer. Then we run through the woods to get in front of a gobbler. All the movement is exciting, but it brings an extra element of danger, so it’s important to both teach and demonstrate gun control and safety to ensure many years of fun in the woods.

Reinforce that we must always identify our target, especially when in pursuit of prey and doing our best to sound like a turkey. Never shoot until we have a clear and ethical shot. This ensures we make a good clean kill shot and prevents any mishap from another hunter being on the other side of a turkey fan. While flattering that our calling sounds that good, we want to make sure we are only pulling the trigger at the real deal.

One of the draws to turkey hunting is blending in with the surroundings and getting the birds to come in as close as possible. We want to be so well camouflaged that the turkey doesn’t know we are there until it’s too late, but that also means other hunters may not see us either. While calling and getting the gobbler within range, we need to teach new hunters to be aware of any other hunters in the area—even on private land. 

Sadly, some people chase birds no matter what boundaries or laws they must cross. To decrease the risk of running upon a careless hunter, teach youth not to sneak through the woods behind a full turkey fan. It’s also critical to teach young hunters how to position decoys. Rather than positioning yourself right behind decoys, set them off to the side to improve safety by keeping you out of the line of fire if someone mistakes your decoy for the real thing. That will also increase your success rate by keeping the turkey’s attention and providing you with a better shot as it walks by instead of directly at you.

Gun Safety Tips to Teach Youth

● Do not load the gun until you are set up and waiting on a turkey.

● Unload the gun before scurrying through the woods.

● Always know where your muzzle is pointing.

● Do not shoot until you can clearly see the whole bird.

● Be cautious with calling and aware of other hunters when setting up near a decoy.

Youth look to us for hunting tactics and calling techniques, but they also watch how we conduct ourselves. They pick up on our ethics in the woods even more than any hunting wisdom we impart, so it’s critical that we set good examples.

Bringing snacks is important when introducing kids to hunting, and it provides another opportunity to teach respect for the land. After unwrapping a snack or finishing a drink, teach kids to put the wrapper or bottle into the pack instead of littering the forest floor. If you happen upon someone else’s trash, pick it up and pack it out. Treating the land with reverence and leaving it better than we found it is the best way to make it better for those who come after us.

One of the biggest challenges with new hunters is walking quietly. Make it a game and encourage kids to “be a ninja.” Sticking to the trails and stepping intentionally while looking out for sticks and dry leaves will improve our stealth. This not only improves your chances of seeing wildlife but is less disturbing to the land, wildlife and other hunters.

The way we treat the land and wildlife is one of the greatest lessons we can pass on. Treating both with reverence and gratitude will encourage the next generation to take care of them, and it will demonstrate that it is about the hunt, not the kill. Our ethics and conduct will leave a lasting impression on young hunters and a legacy that can outlive us.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Honors Glen Kirkham as United Association Conservation Steward of the Year

January 29, 2020 in Conservation News, Press Release

Glen Kirkham (left) receives the UA Conservation Steward of the Year Award from UA Local 68 Business Agent Rick Lord.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored United Association (UA) Local 68 member Glen Kirkham with the UA Conservation Steward of the Year Award for his commitment to conservation and community service.

The award recognizes volunteers from each of the USA’s charter unions who have made exceptional contributions to the USA’s efforts to organize union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Kirkham, of Rockport, Texas, earned the stewardship award for his exemplary leadership on a project to restore hurricane-damaged facilities at a popular state park on Texas’ Aransas Bay.

“Glen was essential to the completion of a project at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “The storm damaged much of the park, including the plumbing system that provided water to 44 waterfront campsites that are used by park goers.”

Kirkham was a driving force behind repairs to hurricane-damaged facilities at Goose Island State Park.

The park is a popular recreational destination for campers, anglers, boaters and birdwatchers, and has recorded up to 190,000 visitors per year.

Late in 2018, Kirkham led a group of 39 volunteers from the UA and several other unions in the first phase of the project, which restored potable water to half of the waterfront sites. In early February of 2019, the project’s second phase completed repairs to the remainder of the sites. In all, union volunteers donated 235 hours of labor worth more than $12,300 to the restoration.

“Glen’s leadership on this project means that Goose Island State Park visitors can once again enjoy access to fresh water at these popular facilities along the park’s scenic waterfront,” added Stroede.

Rick Lord, Plumbers Local 68 Business Agent, presented Kirkham’s Conservation Steward of the Year Award on Jan. 26 during the 2020 AFL-CIO COPE Convention in Austin, Texas.

“Being recognized for what we accomplished at Goose Island State Park is a real honor,” said Kirkham. “But it was definitely a team effort. We had volunteers representing a lot of different trades on the project, ranging in age from their early 20s to 60-plus. Special thanks goes to one of our signatory contractors, Peninsula Plumbing and Handyman Services, for bringing in all the trucks and tools we needed to do the job.”

A real sense of camaraderie developed during the restoration, he continued. “I think the older volunteers, especially, were very proud of the way the younger ones stepped right into it. When you’ve been union for a long time, and believe in our way of life, it makes you feel good when the next generation jumps in and keeps it going. The fact that Goose Island State Park is pretty much in our backyard makes giving back to the community that much more special.”

Texas UA Member Targets Waterfowl on Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Brotherhood Outdoors TV

November 21, 2019 in Brotherhood Outdoors TV, General, Hunting, Press Release

Skip Barrington (right) and longtime friend Curtis O’Brien on location in Nebraska.

United Association (UA) member Skip Barrington pursues waterfowl from western Nebraska to Lake Ontario on an episode of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Brotherhood Outdoors TV series airing the week of November 25 on the Sportsman Channel.

Barrington, of Magnolia, Texas, is a member of UA Local 211. An avid hunter, he’s shared duck blinds and deer camps for 30 years with longtime hunting partner, Curtis O’Brien. Together, the friends share an epic hunting adventure on the national airwaves with Brotherhood Outdoors.

On Nebraska’s famous Platte River, the pair shoot mallards and Canada geese from a sunken shipping container that’s been outfitted as a deluxe pit blind. Then, when the weather forces them to change their tactics, they head for New York for their first-ever pursuit of long-tailed ducks on Lake Ontario. 

“Going to Nebraska, where I got my first Canada goose, then hunting sea ducks in New York was a dream come true,” said Barrington. “Another amazing adventure for Curtis and I.” 

Barrington enjoys a USA Shooting Tour event as part of his Brotherhood Outdoors episode.

Brotherhood Outdoors then follows the friends back to Texas, where they participate in the USA’s 10th Annual Houston Area Sporting Clays Shoot to help raise money for critical conservation projects. 

Join Barrington’s waterfowl escapades when his episode airs on the Sportsman Channel Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 4 p.m. Eastern. Or, catch one of the re-airs on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m. or Sunday, Dec. 1 at 11 a.m.

Produced by Rusted Rooster Media, Brotherhood Outdoors invites hardworking and deserving union members on fishing or hunting adventures of a lifetime. Throughout the season, viewers tag along with guests in pursuit of black bears on Vancouver Island, permit and bonefish in Mexico, waterfowl and whitetails in Saskatchewan and more.

CLICK HERE for a complete listing of all upcoming episodes. To watch episodes online, visit

Presented by Bank of Labor, Brotherhood Outdoors is also sponsored by the following unions, contractors and corporate partners: Carhartt, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Electrical Contractors Association, and United Association/International Training Fund’s Veterans in Piping Program.

Youth Fishing Event Celebrates Dedication of Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Pier

November 3, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Hundreds of local youth and their families gathered Saturday, Nov. 2, to celebrate the dedication of a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The wheelchair-accessible pier gives thousands of youth and other local residents visiting the SYCC campus an opportunity to study coastal marine habitats and learn to fish with minimal impact to the environment.

The massive structure is the result of a multi-year community service project organized by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) through its Work Boots on the Ground conservation program.

A consortium of partners supported the effort, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Southern States Millwright Regional Council, Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, Florida AFL-CIO, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing, TECO Energy, The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Bass Pro Shops and a number of local labor unions.

All young participants received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing.

Donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from these partners topped $800,000. Volunteers alone donated more than 2,000 hours of skilled labor valued at over $100,000 to create the SYCC’s new boardwalk and pier.

The effort is the USA’s largest to date and marks the organization’s 200th Work Boots on the Ground project completion.

More than 500 youth signed up to participate in a free Take Kids Fishing Day event built into the day’s festivities. Volunteers from local labor unions, the FWC and members of the National Football League Players Association assisted the excited young anglers, each of whom received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing, plus additional items including game calls from Plano Synergy. Prior to the dedication ceremony, a free picnic lunch was provided to all participants.

Part of the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The campus includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults.

The boardwalk and pier flank a restored saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. The new structure allows visitors to study coastal marine habitats. It also serves as the perfect platform to teach the joys of fishing, thereby supporting the FYCCN’s goal to create the next generation of conservationists by providing youth opportunities to participate in traditional outdoor activities that inspire lifelong stewardship for fish and wildlife conservation.

“We’re humbled by the generosity of our amazing partners and the highly skilled union workers who donated their time and talent to build this new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier,” said FYCCN director Rae Waddell. “Their dedication to FYCCN’s mission of creating the next generation of conservationists is an inspiration. Seeing these youth and families enjoying themselves here today—fishing, learning and watching wildlife—is the perfect way to celebrate the completion of a project that will benefit this community for years to come.”

Members of the NFL Players Association including pro Charles Riggins (left) volunteered their time to share their love of fishing with local youth.

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and job skills to complete the project: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, LiUNA Locals 310, 517 and 1652, Machinists Local 1000, Roofers Local 123, UA Locals 123 and 915, UBC Locals 1, 283, 1000, 1809, 1905 and 4070, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida President and CEO Andrew Walker shared Waddell’s enthusiasm about the new pier helping engage the next generation of conservationists. “Providing children and teens with high-quality outdoor recreation and education is increasingly important,” said Walker. “A project like this, that so many people helped make possible, is sure to inspire many others who work in youth education.”

Wayne Jennings, executive secretary treasurer of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council, said the Millwrights were proud to be part of such a broad-based project. “It was a pleasure for the SSMRC to be part of such a diverse group,” said Jennings. “Seeing everyone partnering together to accomplish this build was extraordinary. We truly had a multitude of different craft, contractors and volunteers all working harmoniously to deliver a project that will benefit the public for decades to come. It is a true sign of solidarity. I personally thank everyone involved.”

Ben Hur Construction’s Jason Brown echoed Jennings sentiments “Ben Hur would like to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, FWC, as well as all the other partners and sponsors for giving us the opportunity to be part of such a great project for the community.”

“This project presented a number of challenges and obstacles,” said Florida State Building and Construction Trades Council President Theresa King. “I’m grateful for everyone’s persistence in pushing it through, particularly the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for its determination to make the new pier a reality for the community.”

“We are excited to see the Suncoast pier come to life,” added Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Providing accessible educational and outdoor activities for all children is a fundamental way to help grow their interest in the outdoors. We were pleased to be able to help support the USA with this initiative and look forward to seeing the local community enjoy the pier for many years to come.”

“This is the dream team project,” added Connie Parker, a member of the USA Conservation Advisory Committee and Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida Board of Directors. “A consortium of partners came together to give the children of Florida this wonderful pier. We want to roll this out in all 50 states because we know if you put a fishing rod in a child’s hand, he or she will return to the water their entire life.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance said the project epitomizes the organization’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Smiles were contagious and the fish were biting at the free youth fishing event, which included the outdoor-themed antics and fishing assistance of “Camo the Clown.”

“Our 200th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of the great things that happen when hard-working union volunteers join forces to benefit their local communities,” he said. “Our projects are changing lives, changing the way the public looks at unions and changing the way union members see themselves. The beautiful new Suncoast Pier, which will provide more than 10,000 area youth a year with access to the Gulf of Mexico, is a testament to these volunteers’ willingness to donate their time and talents to give back to their communities.”

Vance was also quick to credit the support of project partners. “This is a union-led, private-public partnership that involves multiple non-profits, labor unions, union volunteers, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and numerous industry partners. We are thankful for everyone’s commitment to see this project through to completion.”

During the dedication ceremony, Vance announced the USA has received a Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund Grant totalling $25,000 to support the organization’s Get Youth Outdoors outreach events. Already, the USA Conservation department is working to apply a portion of the funds to a Take Kids Ice Fishing Day event in Minnesota next January. Five additional events will be sponsored by the grant.

The USA’s free, community-based youth outreach activities are also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The USA also recognized a pair of volunteers with service awards. Dan Skuta received the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Conservation Steward of the Year Award, while Wayne Jennings of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council was honored with the USA’s Non-Charter Union Volunteer of the Year Award.

More than 500 youngsters, their families and volunteers gathered to celebrate the new boardwalk and fishing pier.

Sheriff’s Youth Fishing Rodeo Showcases Pier Built by Union Volunteers

October 15, 2019 in General

The laughter and enthusiastic chatter of more than 200 children enjoying a day at the lake was music to the ears of labor union member Kevin Cruso.

Business manager of United Association (UA) Local 568 and a diehard member of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), Cruso spearheaded construction of a brand-new, fully accessible public fishing pier at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.

On Saturday, Oct. 12, the new pier was a hub of activity for hundreds of local youth and their families during the sheriff’s office’s 2019 Youth Fishing Rodeo.

“The event went great and everybody loved the new pier,” said Cruso, of Biloxi.

Designed to give community members of all ages and physical abilities improved access to the farm’s popular fishing pond—home to an abundance of catfish, panfish and bass—the new floating pier stretches 100 feet from the shoreline and features a 50-foot “T” on the end.

More than 200 youngsters eagerly wet a line during the 2019 Harrison County Sheriff’s Office 2019 Youth Fishing Rodeo.

Earlier this year, union volunteers united by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG) installed the user-friendly structure, along with a concrete sidewalk and lakeside fish-cleaning station complete with running water and electricity.

Volunteers from UA Local 568, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 6 and United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 1846 donated more than 200 hours of skilled labor valued at over $10,000 to the project.

Materials were purchased with nearly $20,000 from the Mississippi Building and Construction Trades Council’s annual USA Conservation Dinner and $2,500 from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF). Harrison County provided $5,000 to cover the cost of a dock extension at the request of the sheriff’s office.

Cruso said organizers were inspired to build the pier after seeing physically challenged park visitors watch from the sidelines as others fished from the pond’s hard-to-navigate bank.

“We thought it would make their day to be able to catch a fish or two, and really improve the facility’s fishing opportunities overall,” he said. “So we approached the sheriff’s office with the idea of building a pier everyone could use, and they loved it.”

“We can’t thank the union volunteers or Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enough for building this,” said Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson. He noted that the pier was a great addition to the annual youth fishing event, but will also benefit local residents of all ages and physical abilities year-round.

Built by union volunteers, the new pier was popular with Youth Fishing Rodeo participants and will benefit community members year-round for decades to come.

The Youth Fishing Rodeo was organized by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office with help from a number of partners, including the USA through its Work Boots on the Ground program, which in turn is supported by USA national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Prior to the event, the pier was dedicated to Harrison County Patrolman Earl Phillips, who was killed in the line of duty February 19, 1973.

“We’re very thankful for the union volunteers and other partners who made the new fishing pier possible,” said USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell. “This pier will benefit Harrison County residents for decades to come, and having it dedicated to Patrolman Phillips was an honor to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and everyone involved in the project.”

USA, NSSF Hold Houston Area Get Youth Outdoors Day

April 30, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Hunting, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The nonprofit Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), members of United Association (UA) Plumbers Local 68 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Locals 716 and 66 joined forces April 28 to host nearly 50 Houston-area youngsters during the free Get Youth Outdoors Day at the American Shooting Center in Houston, Texas.

The event, organized by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program and supported by NSSF, Savage Arms, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, was open to boys and girls ages 9 to 15 who each received hands-on introductions to trap shooting, rimfire rifle shooting and archery.

“All the kids had a fantastic experience,” said Mike Cramer, retired secretary/treasurer of Local 68. “It was just a great day for everyone involved. Volunteers from the union locals handled small arms and archery training, while instructors from the shooting center taught the kids about trap shooting and shotgun shooting in general.”

Each participant received a goody bag containing three Plano game calls, a license holder and other items, he added, and were provided eye and hearing protection as well as ammunition free of charge.

Nearly 50 youngsters got a firsthand introduction to the shooting sports and conservation at the Houston-area Get Youth Outdoors Day.

“On top of the interactive shooting stations, the kids got to study a number of additional conservation-based activities, including an extensive wildlife-centered display brought in by our friends at the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge,” he said. “It was an incredible learning experience for them.

“It’s all very important because, as sportsmen, all us volunteers understand that the number of young people who participate in the shooting sports, and outdoor recreation in general, is trending downward,” he explained. “And as union members, we know we have the organizational and work skills we can use to do something about it—such as holding an event like this that exposes our youth to the great outdoors so they become inclined to help preserve it for everyone.”

The Get Youth Outdoors Day was just one of many such events held across the country that are designed to encourage and inspire a passion among young men and women for outdoor recreation and conservation, according to USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede.

“A large number of kids who attended the Houston-area event had never before been exposed to any kind of firearm safety training, or had held a firearm in their hands,” said Stroede, “and that’s a perfect example of why USA, along with our partners, sponsors and supporters, believe events like this one are so important. They can act as a stepping stone, not just for kids but their parents too, to a greater appreciation and love for the outdoors.”

USA, Union Volunteers Tackle Hurricane Harvey Damage to Goose Island State Park

February 15, 2019 in Articles, Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Visitors to Texas’ Goose Island State Park will once again enjoy fresh water close at hand while camping and picnicking along the Gulf Coast, thanks to the efforts of hardworking union volunteers and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Located on St. Charles and Aransas bays north of Corpus Christi, the popular park offers fishing, boating, camping and wildlife watching opportunities. It is also home to the iconic “Big Tree,” an ancient live oak estimated to be more than 1,000 years old.

Due to these attractions, Goose Island State Park attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually—drawing guests from local communities and across the continent.

Unfortunately, the park’s beachside shelters had been without water since Hurricane Harvey battered the coastline in 2017. To remedy the situation, a coalition of volunteers from local labor unions stepped up to make the necessary repairs to get the taps flowing again.

Thirty-nine volunteers donated a total of 265 hours of labor worth more than $12,300 to the project, which included replacing damaged water lines and fixtures at 44 beach shelters along the park’s scenic waterfront. The repairs were completed in two phases, the latest of which wrapped up February 9. Park officials provided the necessary materials while union members donated their time, skills and tools to make the project a reality.

Union volunteers donated 265 hours of labor to restore the water supply at 44 beachside shelters at Goose Island State Park.

Participating union members represented United Association Local 68, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 278, Communications Workers of America Local 6137, American Federation of Teachers Local 3456 and International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 22.

“The staff of Goose Island State Park was extremely grateful that a group of talented volunteers were willing to complete such a mission,” said TJ Hinojosa, interim park superintendent. “The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance members’ service to their state park system provided park staff the ability to focus on other projects and daily tasks.

“Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Goose Island had its most successful year with over 190,000 guests,” Hinojosa noted. “Partners like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance help us return to our potential a little more every day.”

Local organizers and volunteers were grateful for a chance to make a difference. “We are thankful for everything the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance does to help union members give back to their communities through projects like this,” said CWA Local 6137 president Kristie Veit. “The Texas AFL-CIO has also been a big supporter of this project and similar efforts that benefit our neighbors and neighborhoods.”

“The Goose Island State Park project exemplifies how union volunteers are benefiting their communities and outdoors enthusiasts around the country through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “These infrastructure repairs will benefit thousands of people who visit this scenic, historic and environmentally significant park every season.”

The project restored water supplies that had been disrupted since Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017.