The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has honored Jim Hobbie of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 773 with the 2019 LiUNA Conservation Steward of the Year Award.
The award recognizes volunteers from each of the USA’s charter unions who have made exceptional contributions to the USA’s efforts to organize union volunteers to donate their time and unique trade skills to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.
Hobbie, of Benton, Illinois, has been instrumental in efforts to expand public access and recreational opportunities at Rend Lake’s North Marcum Recreation Area (NMRA), a 420-acre public use property managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
“He’s played a major part in leading multiple conservation projects at North Marcum,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede, “including completion of the new Pollinator Trail.”
The Pollinator Trail project features a 1,200-foot walkway surrounded by five acres of native vegetation that attracts insects, birds and other wildlife. As a bonus to visitors, the trail encircles a rejuvenated pond—complete with four fully-accessible fishing stations—that was dredged and expanded to improve habitat for gamefish and other aquatic species.
Hobbie is involved in another ambitious project, currently underway at North Marcum, that will create a state-of-the-art archery complex and mountain bike trail.
Plans call for a half-mile 3-D archery trail with 20-plus shooting lanes, as well as an accessible target range complete with a 10×80-foot shooting shelter, concrete floor, target lanes and permanent covered targets. An elevated shooting platform, with targets, is also being erected on-site. The mountain bike trail will span 12 miles and include a bike maintenance station and directional signage.
A coalition of partners including the USA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), local labor unions, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Rend Lake College, Rend Lake Bike Club, Scholastic 3-D Archery and Rend Lake Conservancy District have joined forces to complete these projects.
“Jim has been a wonderful partner to work with and the key player in bringing these visions to life,” said USACE Natural Resources Specialist Cassie Magsig. “With his help, our partners continue to work toward improving outdoor recreation for everyone.”
“Volunteers from LiUNA and several other trades are working closely with one another to preserve the area’s outdoor heritage by providing greater recreational opportunities for their neighbors,” added Stroede. “A large part of that is due to Jim’s dedication to labor and his strong desire to give back to his community.”
Hobbie was quick to share credit for these successes. “I’m extremely proud and honored by this award,” he said. “I see it as well-deserved recognition of our entire group. If it weren’t for the Local 773 members and the fantastic volunteers from the other trades, none of this could have been done. That also goes for my business manager and executive board who’ve allowed me the time to devote to these projects.”
Along with LIUNA Local 773, volunteers from the Carpenters Regional Council, Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 318, Lake Contracting, Erb Equipment and Ryterski Trucking have donated their time and talents to planning and executing the North Marcum projects.