Union Volunteers Improve Access

Union Sportsmen’s AllianceAs part of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) Adopt-A-Park initiative, volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 666, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Locals 10, 540 and 110, and the Virginia Building and Construction Trades Council gathered on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at Virginia’ York River State Park to begin work on trail improvements that will create more accessible walkways for those with mobility issues.  

A branch of USA’s Boots on the Ground program, which brings together union members to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation efforts, Adopt-A-Park focuses those efforts specifically on renewing, rebuilding and restoring America’s valued parks.

“America’s more than 7,000 state and national parks receive more than a billion visits annually and are an intrinsic part of our country’s culture and legacy, but they’re continually faced with budget challenges and have a backlog of repair and maintenance projects,” said USA Executive Director Fred Myers.  “Through our Adopt-A-Park program, we’re uniting America’s union labor to ensure a bright future for our parks. We’re thrilled to begin our first project in Virginia. This wouldn’t have happened without the commitment of America’s State Parks Foundation and Virginia State Park Director Joe Elton, who has been instrumental in helping us design this program.”

With large pine roots growing through the asphalt, the handicap trail along the river and through the native plant gardens at York River State Park was in desperate need of repair. Throughout August and September, union volunteers will remove the broken asphalt and replace it with concrete to make the popular trail accessible to all visitors.

Part of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve System, York River State Park is located on the York River with 2,550 acres of coastal forest and wetlands as well as 30 miles of trails.  It features mountain biking, hiking and equestrian trails in the park’s main area as well as the Croaker Landing fishing pier and boat launch area.

“As a day-use park, our nearly 30 miles of trails are an integral part of York River’s offerings,” said Russell Johnson, York River State Park manager. “It is rare to have a project like this one that enhances those offerings for all of our guests, no matter their physical capabilities.”

On Sept. 21, 2013, the USA will host its first Annual Conservation Dinner in Richmond to begin raising funds to implement additional Adopt-A-Park projects in Virginia State Parks.

“Our partnership with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is a great fit for Virginia State Parks.  The proximity of AFL-CIO members makes York River State Park a great place to kick-off these projects,” said Joe Elton, DCR’s director of state parks. “As president of America’s State Parks Foundation I have had the opportunity to see the good work these volunteers are doing around the country and to meet Fred Myers, the organization’s executive director.  Fred loves the great outdoors and has a heart for conservation, hunting, fishing and all forms of outdoor recreation.” 

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The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated outdoor organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community to expand and improve hunting and fishing access and wildlife habitat while passing on our national outdoor heritage. For more information, visit http://www.unionsportsmen.org/or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.