Union hands and community families volunteer to restore Bolsa Chica wetlands

A community-wide conservation effort to help restore the wildlife and recreational coastal wetlands of Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve in Huntington Beach, California, made big strides this month with a generous display of commitment by more than 100 volunteers who worked together on May 4 to support another Union Sportsmen Alliance Work Boots on the Ground project.

Volunteer work crews, made up of skilled union trade workers and both adults and youth from the community, joined together to work on a one-mile stretch of trail, measuring 5-feet wide. Some conducted trail maintenance by pulling weeds to remove invasive species, while others repaired wood and metal fencing and removed graffiti.

All the hard work was to refurbish Bolsa Chica’s more than 500 acres of wildlife habitat, a known source of food and rest for hundreds of ducks and other migratory birds.

Union volunteers worked alongside community adults and youth to refurbish wetlands at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

Union volunteers worked alongside community adults and youth to refurbish wetlands at Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve.

USA members Rene Thorn and daughter Jodi Thorn, supporters of Bolsa Chica wetlands conservation efforts, invited the collaboration between the Bolsa Chica Land Trust and USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program in 2012. Before the day’s efforts had wrapped, a third “Work Boots” project to benefit Bolsa Chica was already in the works.

“It’s great to see a project that brings a community together,” said Rene, a member of UA Local 250, from Huntington Beach. “It shows the community that organized laborers and their families care about the community where they live and work. Work Boots on the Ground is a great way to show who we are and that we care about conservation and our communities.”

In addition to ramping up community volunteers for the project, Rene called on some union labor friends who would bring expert trade skills to the job. Brent Beasley, a USA member and Business Manager with RWAW Local 220, from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, stepped up to lead the charge as project coordinator.

“It’s good to give back,” said Brent, who brought in a host of expertly-skilled tradesmen and women made up of operating engineers, painters, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, roofers, brick masons and sheet metal workers, to name a few.

USA "Work Boots on the Ground" volunteers in Southern California, pulled weeds to remove invasive species, repaired wood and metal fencing and removed graffiti.

USA “Work Boots on the Ground” volunteers in Southern California, pulled weeds to remove invasive species, repaired wood and metal fencing and removed graffiti.

“Everybody was working together, brainstorming,” he said of the experts who turned out to lend diverse talents. “We work efficiently, quicker and do more of it.”

Brent also noted the positive display of community adult role models at work alongside volunteer youth who came out with their families. “Kids were pulling weeds…while ironworkers were doing rust remediation,” he said. “It’s good to see the younger (generation) understanding what it means to work with their community.”

As an added highlight of USA’s “Work Boots” collaborative, Field & Stream helped to rally and showcase the volunteers as part of the national outdoor magazine’s “Hero for a Day” program. Camera crews captured the volunteers, calling them, “heroes of conservation” in a segment scheduled to broadcast on fieldandstream.com as a part of its 10-video series.

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