Union Volunteers Rebuild Footbridge at Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art Project

Published: May 21, 2014

A dedicated group of volunteers from the Central Pennsylvania Building Trades Council and the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art’s Lands and Trails Committee celebrated the opening of a new footbridge this week, thanks to the completion of a conservation project spearheaded by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) ‘Work Boots on the Ground” program. The project involved the hands-on work of about 12 volunteers over two consecutive weekends in April, to tear out the existing, temporary, all-wood bridge and to reconstruct it as a permanent structure, complete with new hand rails and gravel.

The USA’s ‘Work Boots on the Ground’ program, a volunteer initiative that mobilizes skilled labor union volunteers for conservation projects, was tapped by long-time USA member and Ned Smith Board of Trustees Member Matt Roberts. When he learned about the Center’s need to replace its older footbridge in disrepair, Roberts brought the idea for a ‘Work Boots’ project to the attention of the Central Pennsylvania Building Trades Council, and they agreed it would be a great fit.

“I felt this was a perfect situation to bring it all together,” said Roberts, noting the weather was the only small challenge to the volunteer crews out on the job to complete the project. “We had rain from lunch on,” he said, “but the guys wouldn’t give in to Mother Nature’s fury.”

Dedicated crews made up of union sheet metal workers, steel workers and carpenters, along with

community volunteers from the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art, worked to complete the bridge over a two-day period, despite the weather.

Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, said that speaks to the spirit of the outdoorsmen and women who enjoy membership in the USA, volunteering their time and talents to support conservation projects.

“There’s no group of people with more skills and know-how than union members to help take on today’s conservation challenges,” said Myers, who founded the non-profit organization seven years ago. “All over the country, we are forming committees, identifying needs, raising money and taking on projects to ensure future generations can enjoy the outdoor opportunities that we enjoy today.”

Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art is home to 12-miles of hiking trails and offers educational value for the thousands of students, families, hikers, anglers and hunters who visit the Center’s 500-plus acres each year. The Center’s Executive Director, Stephen Quigley, is grateful for the partnership between the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Center, in particular, its joint commitment to educating youth.

“The union contractors and partners involved in this project have personal lives as sportsmen themselves, enjoying the outdoors…and know that the youth today are not as connected to the environment as a generation ago,” said Quigley. “While the team worked well together and had fun doing the project, they understand that there is a significant purpose in using these projects as a catalyst for educating our youth about the environment and conservation of our natural resources.”

For more information on the Ned Smith Center’s lands, galleries and education programming, please visit www.nedsmithcenter.org.