The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), volunteers from the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin (BTC) and a crowd of union and community leaders, volunteers, park staff and youths gathered at the newly renovated Vilas Park Fishing Pier in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 14, 2018 to celebrate better public access to popular Lake Wingra.
Using funds raised at the USA’s annual AFL-CIO, BTC Madison Area Conservation Dinner, more than 50 local union volunteers teamed up with the USA and the city of Madison to transform the park’s original floating fishing pier—which was languishing in disrepair in a city storage yard—into a safe structure fully accessible to residents of all physical abilities.
More than $28,000 in materials and nearly $10,000 in union volunteer labor were donated to the project, which was organized under through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program. Volunteers coordinated transportation of the pier to one of the local union shops where over the course of a cold Wisconsin winter, numerous repairs were made, including the installation of new decking and a sturdy railing system.
In preparation for installation of the renovated pier, volunteers and union contractors also designed and constructed a pier abutment as well as a new sidewalk and steps on the edge of Lake Wingra.
As a testament to the access the new pier provides community members to Wingra’s panfish, bass and other gamefish, the structure was in use within minutes of the dedication. As union representatives and volunteers packed up to leave, Adam Paull of Madison took his four-year-old daughter Natalie fishing on the new pier. Thanks to the abundant and hungry sunfish schooling a short cast from the dock, she quickly reeled in the first fish of her life.
Natalie was ecstatic, while her father was grateful to the union volunteers, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and other project partners for providing a place to create such priceless memories. “This is great,” he said. “The pier is in the perfect place for us to enjoy the lake together and catch fish.”
City officials were likewise grateful. “I’m deeply appreciative to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and all the trades for making this happen,” said Madison Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp. “The high quality of craftsmanship displayed by these union volunteers is a testament to their commitment to this project and to their community, and marks the continuation of a longstanding tradition of union workers giving back to the city of Madison.”
“The Building Trades Council has been working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for six years to raise funds for conservation projects and Take Kids Fishing youth events,” said project leader BCT Executive Director Dave Branson. “We feel this fishing pier was a good project to give back to the community and make the lake accessible to everyone.”
“The Vilas Park pier project is an excellent example of how local unions are positively impacting their communities and the future of conservation through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program,” added USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This pier provides improved and safer public access for all residents to enjoy the fishery and beauty of Lake Wingra.”
In an outstanding display of solidarity and community service, a coalition of volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and skills to this project: Ironworkers (IW) Local 383, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local 13, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Local 314, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (IAHFIAW) Local 19, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 159, International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 132, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 7, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Locals 113 and 330, Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 18, Badger Sheet Metal, Forse Consulting, Ideal Crane, Sullivan Design Build, Terra Engineering and Construction, and Wiedenbeck, Inc.