By MARY ANN HOLLEY
O’Fallon, MO – O’Day Park is going to be a great place, now that the ground has been broken by Operating Engineers Local 513 apprentices.
The Operating Engineers Apprentice Training Program volunteered five apprentices for two weeks to prepare a unique, ‘passive’ park that will eventually see natural walking trails, a zip line and pavilions tucked into a heavily wooded environment.
Bob Howell, an O’Fallon councilman and member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, has been helping every step of the way.
“I can’t thank these guys enough,” said Howell, who through his Building Trades relationship found that the Operating Engineers had a program of helping local communities.
“The city of O’Fallon doesn’t have a passive park, so this was much needed, especially for the south side of O’Fallon. Because of the Operating Engineers’ time and talent, the citizens of O’Fallon and surrounding areas will enjoy this park for centuries to come,” Howell said. “They’ll have a plaque in this park. I guarantee it. These guys are working hard out here and people should know that this unique park began with volunteer work from the Operating Engineers Local 513.”
Changing the terrain of a densely wooded 55-acre tract while preserving the natural integrity of the land seemed easy for apprentices and $750,000 collection of high lifts, excavators and dozers.
The apprentices discerning eyes scanned the 25-acre spot to be cleared as they plucked the brush using the massive arm of the high lift, saving any trees of a substantial nature.
Local 513 Apprentice Instructor Rick Hickerson and Brian Graff explained that with the Local’s community service projects the apprentices get a chance to work in the field rather than just at their training facility, and to use their skills to benefit a community. It gives them “real life” training, Hickerson said.
“It’s our Local’s community responsibility to do these kinds of things The quality of our work and work ethics of our membership used to be enough,” Hickerson said. “Now, we have to have a voice out there doing these types of community service things to change the public’s perceptions of what Unions are all about.”
Howell added, "I get so tired of hearing people calling all union members THUGS. The only thing these gentleman thugged was a whole lot of unnecessary trees and shrubs that needed to be removed to begin the construction of the park ground. Certain people spent a lot of time and a lot of money making the word UNION a bad word. It's accomplishments like this that show the public what union labor really does for their communities."
On August 2, 2016, O'Fallon's voters passed Proposition PARKS to allow the City of O'Fallon to issue bonds for the construction of the new park located off of Highway DD (near the Hwy. 61/Winghaven exit).
Howell strongly supported and worked for passage of Proposition PARKS, and continues to watch over the park’s development. Howell is also a executive member of the St. Charles County Municipal League, and a candidate for mayor of the city of O’Fallon in 2017.
"The city of O'Fallon had budgeted over $500,000 for the grading of O'Day Park. This community project by the Operating Engineers definitely put a dent in that budget, saving the city a lot of money," Howell said.
The Apprentice Training Program is 100 percent funded by the Operating Engineers, and owns the equipment used at the site.
The land was donated to the city in 2001 by a local family for the purpose of building a park on the City’s south side.