By: Kate Nation
As Texas state parks struggle with hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, union members in the Dallas-Fort Worth area volunteered their time and unique trade skills on Feb. 24 and 25 through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program to refurbish safety railings at two scenic overlooks, install benches and paint a primitive restroom at Cedar Hill State Park.
Between prep and on-site work, 26 volunteers from the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 100 and Sprinkler Fitters Local 669, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 20, International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 21, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Job Corps and Morgan Stanley Investment Group, along with several family members, logged more than 197 hours to complete the projects. In addition to donating labor, union members raised the $2,334 needed for lumber and other materials at the USA’s Dallas-Fort Worth Area Conservation Dinner last year.
While improving the park, the project also provided hands-on training for four students from the IUPAT Job Corps, which gives at-risk and underprivileged youth academic and vocational training to prepare them for the job market.
“We enjoy the comradery of Union Sportsmen’s Alliance conservation projects,” said Texas State Building Trades President and UA Local 100 Business Manager Craig Berendzen, who led the projects. “Volunteering our time and skills makes us feel good and provides an avenue for us to get the message out that union members really care about their communities. Sometimes we are our best kept secret.”
Being so close to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and its more than six million residents, Cedar Hill State Park is an integral part of the community for outreach, interpretation, education and economic impact. It is also the site of the USA’s first state park project in 2013, which involved union volunteers reconstructing three dilapidated bridges.
“Since Work Boots on the Ground began in 2010, union volunteers have donated more than 18,000 hours and $600,000 in labor costs to improve access to wild places across the country and connect thousands of people to the outdoors,” said Scott Vance, USA CEO and executive director. “Our goal is to not only continue these vitally important conservation infrastructure projects, but to substantially grow them. As state and federal agency budgets continue to shrink, the USA is committed to helping build and sustain the vital infrastructures of our parks, wildlife management areas and public waters.”