Imagine America without all of our state parks and the diverse recreational opportunities they provide. No trails to hike, no ponds to fish, lakes to take the boat, and no areas to take the kids to see wonderful plants and animals they can’t find around their home. Each year, our state parks suffer as budgets grow tighter, the list of needs of each park grows, repairs go untouched and general up-keep of trails and facilities become harder and harder to accommodate. Recognizing the value of our parks not only for their own families but for families and communities across the country, union members are stepping up to donate their own time and skills to ensure the parks remain a place of enjoyment for all.
Last year, unions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area gathered for a dinner in support of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and its Boots on the Ground program, which brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle conservation projects. As a part of Boots on the Ground, USA’s Adopt-A-Park program focuses those efforts specifically on America’s nearly 7,000 parks.
This year, Cedar Hills State Park in Dallas, TX submitted an application to the USA indicated three hiking bridges in need of repair. Using $3,000 of the money raised at USA’s Dallas Area Conservation Dinner for lumber, screws, bolts and other construction materials, volunteers representing the Dallas Building & Construction Trades Council; several union locals including UA 100, IUEC 21, IUPAT 53, IBEW 20, SMART 68; students and employees of the North Texas Job Corp Center; and union contractors such as Beard Integrated Systems came together on May 17, 2013 to repair the bridges.“It’s important to be involved in projects such as this because they improve opportunities for everyone to enjoy our local outdoors. It gives us a place to get away from all the concrete, cars, and computers and to understand the outdoors and places we may have never gone,” said Jim Miille, coordinator for this volunteer project and a project manager at Beard Integrated Systems, a union contractor. “While this project brought together many different union trades, we all functioned as one team working toward a common goal.”
The total project took about 12 hours, as 72 volunteers replaced walk boards, horizontal support boards and the hand rails on the bridges. While the bridges were in different stages of disrepair, the volunteers carefully evaluated each bridge and updated each based on structural safety. Because of this project, those that visit the park no longer have to worry about splinters or tripping over warped boards; they can now simply enjoy the beauty of the hiking trails.
“We continually strive to maintain all facilities and services on minimal budgets. There are multiple projects, like trail bridge maintenance, that fall behind other higher priority maintenance issues and don’t receive funding,” said Assistant Park Superintendent Joshua Choate. “The unions and USA provided the materials, a large number of highly skilled volunteers and high quality service. We could not be more thankful for their dedication to conservation and community service.”
“This project truly provides a safer environment within the state park, making it more enjoyable to walk through. For me and many of the other volunteers, it was the first time we had visited the park. Getting to see all that it has to offer and knowing that we had a hand in making it a better place for others, many of us have already visited since,” said Miille.