By TIM ROWDEN
Florissant, MO – The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, unions of the St. Louis Building Trades Council and St. Louis Labor Council and Florissant city officials celebrated the groundbreaking of a new state-of the-art archery range overlooking the Missouri River March 23 at Florissant’s Sunset Park.
The range is the vision of Allan Bathon, president of Utility Workers Local 335, who passed by the City’s current range at Koch Park at Charbonier and Howdershell roads twice a day on his way to and from work and wondered if a better, all access range could be built to serve city residents and visitors.
Bathon is a member of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and approached the Alliance about building a two-tier range – a standard range and an elevated walkaround range where shooters can take aim at fake deer and other targets – similar to one the Alliance built at Mark Twain Lake. He then approached officials from Missouri American Water, who – with some coaxing – agreed to provide $16,000 for the project, which is also receiving funding from other sources.
“This has been two or three years in the making,” Bathon said. “We were going to do something with St. Louis County Parks at Suson Park in South County, but the water company decided since we did a boat ramp at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills (a project also financed by the water company) that we needed to come up here and do something. So I got the perfect idea. They weren’t sure at first because it didn’t’ have anything to do with water, but our plant is right down the river there. So I showed them up here and they thought it was a good idea.”
Bathon and Gary Payeur, business manager for Insulators Local 1, are leading the project in coordination with Sam Phipps of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562. Phipps is a conservation programs manager for the Union Sportsman’s Alliance’s Work Boots on the Ground program. A U.S. Army veteran, he also works with The Fallen Outdoors, a nonprofit that helps network veterans by organizing hunting and fishing adventures.
WORK BOOTS ON THE GROUND
Work Boots on the Ground, the flagship program of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, started in 2010, utilizing the power of Labor and volunteer time for community service projects that improve public access, enhance wildlife habitat, and restores America’s parks and the use of them, Phipps said. Since that time, over 4,500 union members have volunteered 54,000 hours, a value of $2.1 million towards conservation projects all across the country.
“Today we’re proud to celebrate our latest project, the archery range here at Sunset Park,” Phipps said. “This new range be available to the Lindenwood University Archery Team, the St. Louis Bow Hunters Archery Club and the National Wild Turkey Federation Youth Program,” among others.
“We would really like to say thank you to all the partners involved, the City of Florissant for this gorgeous piece of property, Missouri American Water for the contribution of $16,000 to make this project possible, all of our local unions and our members who are volunteering their skills and their time to bring this project to life, the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, SMART Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, Painters District Council 58, and Alan Bathon and Gary Peyer for leading this project.”
FINANCED WITH PRIVATE FUNDS
Florissant Mayor Tim Lowery noted the entire project is being financed with private funds at no cost to Florissant taxpayers.
“This is all being done with private funds,” Lowery said. “And all of the work that’s going to be done is going to be by the unions of the St. Louis Building Trades and Labor Council.”
Jeff Kaiser, vice president of Missouri American Water joked about Bathon’s persistence in getting the water company’s backing for the project. “We’re really thrilled to be a part of this,” Kaiser said “It’s going to benefit the residents of the city of Florissant and people that live around the area. From the water company standpoint, we’re very grateful to be part of it.”
The project is expected to take about three months to complete.