By Laura Tingo
The idea of putting a permanent roof on the youth archery range at the J.W Corbett Wildlife Management Area’s Everglades Youth Conservation Camp in West Palm Beach, Florida has come to fruition thanks to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and its Work Boots on the Ground program that mobilizes skilled union members for conservation.
Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 32, Electrical Workers Local 359 and Carpenters Local 1809, showcased the program in full force as they utilized their trade skills to cover the 84-foot archery range. Side by side, utilizing tools, plywood, metal tin, airguns and compressors, they worked throughout the weekend, May 3-4, to finish the job in record time and expert fashion.
According to Lynne Hawk, Regional Hunter Safety Coordinator with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the archery range provides year-round hunter safety courses for children and adults, as well as school and community groups.
Hawk facilitated the project with the leadership of the Work Boots on the Ground volunteer project leader Rick Pazos, a training director and member of SMART Local 32. “Rick did an excellent job. This project wouldn’t have gotten done if it weren’t for him. The guys (all) worked really hard…I am so thankful for all of them.”
“The archery range is used by kids every day during the facility’s summer camp,” added Hawk, “…We now have a new roof on the archery range that should last for many, many years to come.”
Tim Mitcheltree, a member of Carpenters Local 1809 of Loxahatchee, came out to lend his skills and talents to the task when he heard that it was time to replace the blue tarps that, until recently, were strung over the rafters to help protect visitors to the shooting range from the Florida sun. Mitcheltree called it, “a good, temporary fix,” when he took his son out to the range a few months ago.
“These are great projects for the whole community to be very proud of,” said Mitcheltree. “Unions in Florida are the best kept secret in the construction industry, and this is a good way to educate the youth about what we stand for: the education and training that every union member has access to…And if they get involved in the outdoors at the same time – that is even better.”
Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, said the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program was created to form collaborations all over the country on behalf of conservation, to drive projects faced with narrowing budgets, staffing and materials challenges.
“The people who volunteer with us to identify projects, raise money to support them and show up in numbers to provide the hands-on labor all have a commitment to conservation and their communities,” Myers said. “They want to give back and find that our Work Boots on the Ground collaborations provide a vehicle to get involved and make a difference for future generations.”