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Union Sportsmen, USACE showcase new fishing access with youth fishing event

by Union Sportsmen's Alliance 5 Jun 23:14 UTC June 1, 2024
More than 300 anglers joined union volunteers at Hood Park in Burbank, Washington, for the Union Sportsmen's Alliance's Inaugural Tri-Cities Take Kids Fishing Day © Union Sportsmen's Alliance

More than 300 anglers joined union volunteers at Hood Park in Burbank, Washington, on Saturday, June 1, for the Union Sportsmen's Alliance's (USA) Inaugural Tri-Cities Take Kids Fishing Day at a pond where volunteers installed two fishing piers in mid-May.

"The turnout was unbelievable for a first-time event," said USA Conservation Programs Manager Sam Phipps, who noted that many of the participants lived in the area but didn't know that the ponds existed and were open to the public.

Managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Hood Park encompasses a wildlife management area that includes two ponds. According to Brett Forge, a wildlife biologist with the USACE Tri-Rivers NRM Walla Walla District, the ponds are heavily fished from the shoreline, but the banks are uneven and only accessible to some.

On May 18, union volunteers installed two ADA-compliant AccuDock fishing platforms to improve fishing access for all park visitors. During the Take Kids Fishing event, families took turns fishing from the docks and the shoreline with brand-new fishing rods provided to all registered youths.

Apprentices from Sheet Metal Workers Local 55 tied the rods the day prior, and volunteers from Electrical Workers Local 112, Laborers Local 737, Iron Workers Local 14, Carpenters Local 59, Sunrise Dental as well as USACE staff assisted both youths and adults with baiting hooks, casting and reeling in fish.

"It took a year and a half to get the right time and place to make this event happen, so it was really cool to see the funding from our dinners and the energy of the volunteers come together for a terrific event," said Electrical Workers Local 112 Business Manager/Financial Secretary Travis Swayze, who organized the event. "Building trades people are very task oriented, so when volunteers arrived, they went right to work, and everything went smoothly. It warmed my heart to see all the families fishing together and to cast a line with my own son as well."

According to Forge, participants pulled out stringers of fish thanks to Tucannon Fish Hatchery and Lyons Ferry Fish Hatchery, which stocked the pond with 800 fish the week of the event.

"It was one of the coolest events we've had in a long time. There were smiles and laughter everywhere," said Forge. "I want to thank the Union Sportsmen's Alliance volunteers for giving everything they had—cooking food, bringing fishing poles, directing traffic, and helping the kids with their poles. Seeing that kind of community here is a warm welcome."

Approximately $23,000 for the dock installation project was funded by the USA's annual Tri-Cities Conservation Dinner. Through auctions and raffles held during the dinner, union affiliates and union members donate money that is reinvested in the community through local conservation projects and events like the Tri-Cities Take Kids Fishing Day.

"It was really neat to attend this event with my own family and see the USA's Tri-Cities Conservation Dinner come full circle, from raising funds to improving public access to the outdoors to creating opportunities for the community to enjoy that access," said USA Event Coordinator Eric Bakken.

"I was thrilled to hear about the incredible success of the youth fishing event at Hood Park," said AccuDock owner Jason Harrison. "Hearing how the community came together to enjoy fishing from the docks was remarkable, highlighting the safety and accessibility of AccuDock products. We thank the USA for hosting the event, along with all the union trades, partners, and volunteers who dedicated their time. I hope those who attended will return to the park and spend more time on the docks in the future."

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