By CARL GREEN
Just as the AFL-CIO’s Convention in St. Louis kicked off, union volunteers working with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) dedicated the rebuilding of two fishing piers in Willmore Park off Hampton Avenue on the southern edge of the city.
Dozens of local kids, veterans and retirees joined union members on Oct. 21 for lunch and to try out the piers on the park’s five-acre lake.
The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program brought together union volunteers from the Missouri AFL-CIO, St. Louis Labor Council, St. Louis Building and Construction Trades, St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council Locals 42 and 110, the AGC Training Center, Iron Workers Local 396 and Painters and Allied Trades DC 58 to rebuild one of the piers and install and paint a railing on another to make them safe for visitors. The project was sponsored by PNC Capital Advisors and Aetna.
UNITING UNION VOLUNTEERS
“St. Louis has a strong urban fishing heritage, and parks are an important part of our city’s culture,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis. “The project at Willmore Park united volunteers from many union trades for the common purpose of improving our community and public fishing access for all to enjoy for generations to come.”
A group of nearly 150 gathered to celebrate the new piers with speeches and a commemorative plaque before enjoying the free lunch. Immediately after lunch, a group of youth, veterans and seniors received hands-on fishing instruction and assistance provided by USA volunteers. All participants received a free fishing rod, reel and tackle courtesy of Pure Fishing.
“America’s urban parks are a true treasure providing large populations living within city limits access to the great outdoors. However, many of these parks have infrastructure that is deteriorating, and city budgets that simply can’t provide the necessary maintenance,” said USA CEO & Executive Director Scott Vance.
“The USA has the most powerful tool available to help preserve our urban parks and outdoor heritage — skilled union members willing to give their time, expertise and passion to the cause. The Willmore Park project and community fishing day are a true testament to our union volunteers, the power of Labor and their strong desire to give back more to their community than they receive.
“We got skilled labor from the local unions to come out and do the work,” Vance said. “It didn’t cost the city a dime. We donated all the labor and we purchased all the materials. We basically saved the city $20,000, and we restored access to a key urban fishing area. It is just a great project.”
One pier on the west side of the lake was intact but needed a new rail system. The old pier on the east side needed to be rebuilt down to its steel supports.
FIRST PROJECT IN ST. LOUIS
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance works nationwide, but this was its first project in St. Louis City. Union volunteers from Utility Workers Local 335 working with the Alliance rebuilt a boat ramp on the Meramec River at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills earlier this year. (Actually, they rebuilt it twice after spring floods washed out the first project.)
“We want to do more projects in St. Louis,” Vance said. “It’s a great market for us – a strong union market. We want to give back to this community as much as we can.”
Pure Fishing donated 75 rods, reels and tackle for the dedication.
In addition to the companies and unions that helped with the restoration, the following organizations helped with the fishing event: Vandaventer Place Retirement Center, Lively Stone Church of St. Louis, Missouri Veteran’s Home of St. Louis, UFCW Meat, Deli & Seafood Local 88, Communications Workers of America Local 6300 and national and local AFL-CIO members.
UNION SPORTSMEN’S ALLIANCE
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is a non-profit that seeks to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For information, go to unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.