Wrapping up a year of beneficial Boots on the Ground conservation projects, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) staff and union volunteers wrapped up the first phase of a youth shooting facility in College Grove, TN to help educate and mentor the next generation of shooting enthusiasts.
Looking for a local project with a long term impact in the community, the USA teamed up with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) and the Nashville Building and Construction Trades in early 2012. After months of planning, they launched a Boots on the Ground project to construct the Harpeth Scholastic Shooting Complex on a 20-acre plot to benefit the shooting programs of nine middle and high schools near the USA’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.
Students who belong to these school shooting programs currently drive up to 1.5 hours to practice and compete—a burden both for the students and their parents. The new shooting complex will make the shooting sports readily accessible to more than 200 student competitors each year.
In phase one of the project, Ironworkers Local 492 member Glen Sloan and Helmets to Hardhats apprentice Nathan May constructed a 36’ gate for the entrance of the new shooting facility. Volunteers from IBEW Local 429, Insulators Local 86 and Ironworkers Local 492 installed the gate while several USA staff painted it on Dec. 1. IBEW Local 429 also secured a donation of electrical materials from Conti Electric in Nashville, TN—part of the nationwide Conti Corporation—to wire the facility and install outdoor lighting.
“The shooting sports are a great way to get youth away from their electronics and engaged in an outdoor activity that teaches important life skills like hard work, dedication, awareness and safety,” said Gerald Grant, IBEW Local 429 Business Manager and Financial Secretary and one of the committee members for this Boots on the Ground project. “We’re proud to offer our support to help build a shooting complex that will benefit youth in our community, including the children of some of our own union brothers and sisters.”
The shooting range is just the first step in the development of the property. The TWRA plans to raise additional funds to build a learning center for hunter safety and wildlife management, so students can complete the live firing portion of the course at the same location, and to refurbish an old barn on the site. The Nashville Building and Construction Trades have offered labor for any other projects they undertake at the facility.
“Many members of the Nashville Building Trades are avid hunters and shooters, so we were thrilled to get them involved in USA’s Boots on the Ground project,” said Anthony Nicholson, President of the Nashville Building Trades and Business Manager of Insulators Local 86. “It’s up to today’s youth to carry on our outdoor sporting traditions, and this new shooting complex will introduce more school-age children to the shooting sports, which may also spark their interest in hunting.”
“The hardest part of building anything that isn’t monetarily motivated is finding funding and skilled volunteers,” said Williamson County Wildlife Officer Joe Fortner. “We’ve been able to raise a significant amount of money but not enough to write a contractor a quarter million dollar check. That’s where the USA stepped in. Skilled union volunteers are able to do things the average volunteer couldn’t do. Without the help of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, we wouldn’t be able to build this facility at this time.”