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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, Partners Celebrate Union-Powered Public Shooting Range Improvements

August 1, 2019 in General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson (center right) and IBEW Local 26 Business Manager George Hogan (center left) joined union volunteers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating new shooting stations at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a consortium of partners celebrated the improvement of public recreational shooting opportunities at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland, July 31.

A dedication ceremony marked the completion by local labor union members of three covered, fully accessible shooting stations that will be available to community residents and other guests using the range.

“We’re proud to be part of this effort, where union members rolled up their sleeves to help Prince George’s continue to provide the community with some of the finest shooting opportunities in the United States,” said Kinsey Robinson, USA board of directors member and international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers.

Organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program, the project was completed at no cost to the public. 

Union volunteers from IBEW Local 26, SMART Local 100, IUEC Local 10, IW Local 5 and the UBC, along with the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO), collectively donated more than 445 hours of skilled labor worth over $23,500. Plus, $10,000 in materials was donated using funds from the USA’s Capital Area Conservation Dinner, for a total project value of more than $33,500.

Located just outside Washington, D.C., Prince George’s Trap and Skeet Center is a premier shotgun clay target shooting range open to the public, youth groups and other organizations year-round. The addition of the new shooting stations gives visitors from all walks of life expanded opportunities to enjoy a variety of shooting sports activities including trap, skeet and sporting clays.

The facility is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation administered by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

USA, RBFF, Union Volunteers Unite to Build Public Fishing Pier in Harrison County, Mississippi

July 25, 2019 in Conservation News, Fishing, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Fishing just got better at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.

Labor union members, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) joined forces to create a new fully accessible public fishing pier at the property, which hosts hundreds of local residents every season. 

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.

“Research shows that accessibility is key to growing fishing participation,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “We are pleased to partner with the USA to bring a fun, safe fishing opportunity to such a popular location, encouraging strong participation for generations to come.”

Union volunteers united by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG) installed the user-friendly structure, along with a concrete sidewalk running from the parking area to the pier, and a lakeside fish-cleaning station complete with running water and electricity. 

Union volunteers installed a new floating fishing pier, fish cleaning station, sidewalk and pier abutment at the Harrison County Sheriff’s County Farm.

To get the job done, volunteers from United Association 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 RBFF. Harrison County provided $5,000 to cover the cost of a dock extension at the request of the Sheriff’s Office.

UA Local 568 Business Manager Kevin Cruso, who served as local project leader, said organizers were inspired to build the pier after seeing physically challenged park visitors watching 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. “This is not for departmental use, it is for everyone in the community—including handicapped residents who want to go fishing.”

Peterson noted that the new pier will be a perfect addition to the Sheriff’s Office’s annual Youth Fishing Rodeo, which draws more than 300 children from all walks of life. “We have kids from the city, the county and everywhere in between come out and enjoy a day of fishing,” he said. “We will definitely use the pier for this event. Plus, local residents can come out and fish from it year-round.”

An official dedication ceremony is planned for October 12, in conjunction with the 2019 Harrison County Sheriff’s Youth Fishing Rodeo. The USA will join a number of local and national partners in sponsoring this event.