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.
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.
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.”