Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) visitors now enjoy greater access and fishing opportunities, thanks to union volunteers and a $10,000 grant from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) United Outdoors Conservation Fund.
Located in northwest Ohio on the shore of Lake Erie, Ottawa NWR is popular among those in search of outdoor adventures. Each year, the refuge hosts an increasing number of students for environmental education programs. While fishing is a key component, the refuge lacked a safe and accessible place for children to learn to fish. Instead, staff utilized a mowed grass trail next to a pond near the visitor center.
The USA grant was awarded to the Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge to support its Anglers for Tomorrow initiative, which included construction of a wheelchair-accessible, 100-foot concrete trail and three fishing platforms along the pond.
In October, volunteers from United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 12 and Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local G-555 completed the piers. Volunteers from Friends of Ottawa NWR, along with refuge employees, also participated in the project. The new structures increase fishing participation by providing wheelchair access and reducing the threat of insect bites and injuries associated with the trail used prior to the project.
“It was great to work with partners who bring different backgrounds and skills to the table for a common goal,” said Friends of Ottawa NWR Executive Director Aimee Arent. “The refuge operates under the knowledge that connecting children to conservation supports their growth into stewards of tomorrow. This project will help ensure the realization of this goal.”
In late 2018, the USA unveiled its United Outdoors Conservation Fund to expand its conservation footprint. Through a grant application process, the fund provides financial assistant to union-based organizations, conservation groups and agency partners to execute impactful conservation and access projects or outreach programs.
The Friends of Ottawa NWR grant was one of the first issued through the new program, and the first to be completed.
“This new grant fund allows the USA and its partners to operate in a way that not only increases the impact of our projects but also engages many more stakeholders and communities,” explained USA Conservation and Communications Director Forrest Parker. “It also enables Organized Labor to make a significant and substantial difference in our country’s conservation future.”
For more information on the fund or to apply for a grant, visit: https://unionsportsmen.org/grantfund.