Union metal trades workers volunteer expert skills to restore views at Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon

A cleared and restored hiking trail at Providence Canyon State Park – known to locals as Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon in southwest Georgia – is the result of hands-on, volunteer support from the Columbus Metal Trades Council. Workers removed fallen trees, cut dead limbs overhead and refreshed trail markers in support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Adopt-A-Park program, which brings together skilled union volunteers to help renew, rebuild and restore America’s parks, so they will be here to enjoy for future generations.

Workers from Columbus Metal Trades Council removed fallen trees, cut dead limbs overhead and refreshed trail markers at Providence Canyon State Park.

Workers from Columbus Metal Trades Council removed fallen trees, cut dead limbs overhead and refreshed trail markers at Providence Canyon State Park.

A hiking trail with scenic views of a 550 ft. canyon is the key draw to Providence Canyon State Park, but until recently, it was dotted with downed trees and limbs and severely overgrown with vegetation, which extended up to 15 feet beyond the fence that runs along the canyon rim. As Park Manager Tracy Yearta was deciding how to address the trail, he got a call from Dave Hall, Recording Secretary for the Columbus Metal Trades Council (CMTC).

“It was a very pleasant surprise to get that call,” said Yearta, who has managed both Providence Canyon State Park and Florence Marina since the parks were restructured a few years back. “It got me rejuvenated because we were trying to form a game plan to tackle a section of park we felt needed the most attention, knowing we didn’t have the manpower to do the whole thing.”

Located in Fort Benning, GA, the CMTC is an umbrella group of six unions including IBEW Local 613, IUOE Local 926, LiUNA Local 515, UA Local 52, IAMAW Local 2699 and SMART Local 85. Its leadership learned about USA’s Adopt-A-Park at a union convention, and it sparked their interest.

After a few discussions with USA’s conservation project coordinator, Hall, nominated to organize the project, contacted Yearta and laid plans for volunteers to clean up the 7-mile trail beginning at the park entrance.

On Feb. 8, Hall, CMTC President Mike Culpepper and members of each CMTC union along with Pablo Diaz, the human resources manager of CMTC’s main contractor Tiya Management, and his son met up with park staff equipped with chainsaws and determination.

A hiking trail with scenic views of a 550 ft. canyon in Providence Canyon State Park is cleared and refurbished, thanks to the volunteer efforts of tradesmen and women from the Columbus Metal Trades Council.

A hiking trail with scenic views of a 550 ft. canyon in Providence Canyon State Park is cleared and refurbished, thanks to the volunteer efforts of tradesmen and women from the Columbus Metal Trades Council.

“Seven miles is a lengthy area to clear, and when we ran into the other team at the end of the day, you could see the light in everyone’s eyes,” said Hall. “It was one of the most fulfilling events I have ever been a part of! Everyone…had a sense of pride knowing the work we were doing would have a lasting impression on the park staff and our community.”

Following the success of the project, the CMTC has already had follow up discussions with Yearta about more joint projects like improvements to dock and cabin facilities at Florence Marina.

“I just can’t say enough how much I appreciate those guys taking their personal time to come out and help. … It’s really important to the visitors and park staff,” Yearta said. “We basically have one team taking care of two parks, so groups like the Columbus Metal Trades Council are a tremendous asset to the park system.”

“The USA’s success at Providence Canyon State Park is a perfect example of how union members give back to their communities outside the workplace,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “These men and women bring specialized skills to the table to get the job done right. Our Adopt-A-Park program helps meet challenges our cherished parks face due to tight budgets and limited manpower.”

About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.

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