Gulfport, Miss. July 25, 2019 — Fishing just got better at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office’s County Farm near Gulfport, Mississippi.
Labor union members, the Union Sportsmen's Alliance (USA) and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) joined forces to create a new fully accessible public fishing pier at the property, which hosts hundreds of local residents every season.
Designed to give community members of all ages and physical abilities improved access to the farm’s popular fishing pond—home to an abundance of catfish, panfish and bass—the new floating pier stretches 100 feet from the shoreline and features a 50-foot “T” on the end.
“Research shows that accessibility is key to growing fishing participation,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “We are pleased to partner with the USA to bring a fun, safe fishing opportunity to such a popular location, encouraging strong participation for generations to come.”
Union volunteers united by the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program (WBG) installed the user-friendly structure, along with a concrete sidewalk running from the parking area to the pier, and a lakeside fish-cleaning station complete with running water and electricity.
To get the job done, volunteers from United Association Local 568, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 6 and United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 1846 donated more than 200 hours of skilled labor valued at over $10,000 to the project.
Materials were purchased with nearly $20,000 from the Mississippi Building and Construction Trades Council’s annual USA Conservation Dinner and $2,500 from RBFF. Harrison County provided $5,000 to cover the cost of a dock extension at the request of the Sheriff’s Office.
UA Local 568 Business Manager Kevin Cruso, who served as local project leader, said organizers were inspired to build the pier after seeing physically challenged park visitors watching from the sidelines as others fished from the pond’s hard-to-navigate bank.
“We thought it would make their day to be able to catch a fish or two, and really improve the facility’s fishing opportunities overall,” he said. "So we approached the Sheriff's Office with the idea of building a pier everyone could use, and they loved it.”
“We can’t thank the union volunteers or Union Sportsmen’s Alliance enough for building this,” said Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson. “This is not for departmental use, it is for everyone in the community—including handicapped residents who want to go fishing.”
Peterson noted that the new pier will be a perfect addition to the Sheriff's Office’s annual Youth Fishing Rodeo, which draws more than 300 children from all walks of life. “We have kids from the city, the county and everywhere in between come out and enjoy a day of fishing,” he said. “We will definitely use the pier for this event. Plus, local residents can come out and fish from it year-round."
An official dedication ceremony is planned for October 12, in conjunction with the 2019 Harrison County Sheriff's Youth Fishing Rodeo. The USA will join a number of local and national partners in sponsoring this event.
Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): The USA is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Work Boots on the Ground (WBG): WBG is the USA’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide manpower needed to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.
About the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF): RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation's aquatic natural resources. RBFF's recently announced 60-in-60 effort strives to attract 60 million anglers to the sport by the end of 2021. To help recruit, retain and reactivate participants, RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ campaigns creating awareness about boating, fishing and conservation, and educating people about the benefits of participation. These campaigns help boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan and equip for a day on the water. The campaign websites, TakeMeFishing.org and VamosAPescar.org, feature how-to videos, information on how to get a fishing license and boat registration, and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots.