Spanning more than 36,000 acres, Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga is a popular destination for anglers and other watersports enthusiasts from within the state and around the country.
Fishing is a prime draw. The scenic reservoir is consistently ranked among the nation’s top bass fisheries and currently holds the Tennessee state records for both largemouth and spotted bass. Recreational boating, waterskiing, kayaking, swimming and camping also attract thousands of visitors each year. Unfortunately, funds to maintain and enhance public access to this crown jewel of the Tennessee River system are chronically tight.
To help remedy the situation, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) and a dedicated team of union volunteers stepped up to complete a major overhaul of one of Chickamauga’s busiest access points, the Wolftever Creek Boat Ramp adjacent to Harrison Bay State Park just outside of Chattanooga.
The renovation expanded year-round public access by replacing an existing dilapidated dock with a brand-new, 104-foot-long, handicap-accessible floating pier.
Union volunteers donated approximately 300 hours of labor to demolish the old dock April 7, install the new pier April 21 and align the structure on April 28. Volunteers also replaced damaged and unsafe floor boards and the top rail of a fishing pier adjacent to the boat launch.
The final phase of the project, set for completion by the end of May, includes the installation of an additional handrail on the pier abutment and transition plates between dock sections. In the meantime, the pier is open for use.
The project was part of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, which brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and talents to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The WBG program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.
The Wolftever Creek project was conducted without the use of state game and fish funds. Materials were purchased with $10,000 raised by United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 42 and $22,000 in federal marine fuel tax revenues from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). All union labor was donated.
The project originated when UAW Local 42 expressed interest in taking on a community-based conservation project, and USA research revealed strong public support for improvements to the Wolftever Creek ramp.
Demolition & Renovation Photos:
“Unions are always looking for ways to get involved and improve their communities,” said UAW Local 42 President Steve Cochran. “The Wolftever Creek boat ramp was one of the most heavily used access points to the lake, but it was really unsafe and unusable in the winter due to low water levels. Replacing the boat ramp is a project that UAW Local 42 really wanted to get involved in to benefit the public and demonstrate that we care about our community.”
Along with UAW Local 42, participating union members also represent the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 175, Ironworkers (IW) Local 704 and Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 5.
“The Wolftever Creek 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,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “This dock benefits thousands of fishermen and other recreational boaters who use the Wolftever Creek boat ramp. It not only improves the aesthetic value of this location but provides improved and safer access to all who utilize it.”
TWRA officials were grateful for USA and union volunteers’ assistance in making the Wolftever Creek ramp renovation a reality faster than limited state budgets and manpower could have allowed.
“The donations and hard work of the Union Sportsmen allowed us to accomplish this project more quickly,” said Capt. Matt Clarey, who oversees boat access areas and ramps for TWRA Region III. “We’re pleased to work alongside such great citizens. This partnership will benefit Tennesseans for years to come.”
UAW Local 42 Vice President David Gleeson noted the added benefits of having union members from different trades join forces in pursuit of common goals such as conservation and community service.
“Volunteer projects like the one at Wolftever Creek build comradery and enable members of various union trades to discuss issues,” he said. “We had ironworkers, sheet metal workers and auto workers. But at the worksite, we were all just workers. Nobody had a big head. We just helped one another out with what needed to be done.”