Saturday, August 20, 2016

Moonrise illuminates the Milwaukee County Grounds

It's easy enough to look up the phases of the moon online and plan ahead to be in a place to catch it full and rising. But I'm not that organized. I was on my way home from somewhere this week when I turned onto Discovery Parkway in the County Grounds and saw it. As further good luck would have it (and I swear that's all it was) I had my camera in the car.

The question was where to stop, what to have in the foreground. While most anything would do if all I wanted was to capture the moon itself, I thought it would be symbolic to identify the location. Hence the watertower. The best place to be to get the watertower to line up with the moon was on the construction site where a new hotel is being built for Innovation Park. Hence the crane.

If I moved a dozen yards or so south I got this view of the moon through the Medical Center power plant stacks. If you know that I live within walking distance of the County Grounds it will come as no surprise when I say that I walk there often. These are not the usual kinds of images I try to use to represent what I consider a jewel in the Milwaukee County urban wilderness. But there you have it.

You can see more typical representations of the County Gounds on my Flickr album.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rally on the Milwaukee River protests oil trains

Billed as "Converge at the Confluence," protesters did converge on Sunday at the point where the Menomonee River meets the Milwaukee. Not coincidentally, that is also a place where one of many railroad bridges crosses the river. Among the trains that use the bridge are those carrying crude oil, dubbed "bomb trains" by the protesters because there have been a number of lethal derailments and explosions in the U.S. and Canada.

The protest was organized by Citizens Acting for Rail Safety - Milwaukee.

The event included a parade along the Milwaukee Riverwalk, along with paddlers in canoes and kayaks. Here are a selection of photographs of the action:

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Milwaukee Water Commons holds annual We Are Water celebration at lakefront

There was music, poetry, puppetry, art and invocations of the spirit on Bradford Beach last Sunday evening. It was the third in what has become an annual event called "We Are Water" organized by the Milwaukee Water Commons. Billed as a "celebration of Milwaukee's waters," the event has become a mini-arts festival as well as a meditation on the importance of water to Milwaukee and all life on earth.

Jahmes Finlayson and Dena Aronson got things going with some lively drumming... well as a ritual libation: reflections on water and life while pouring Lake Michigan water onto the sand.

True Skool entertained the crowd with a rap about water.

Three young artists with Still Waters Collective gave an impassioned spoken word performance.

Off to the side of the beach members of Exfabula set up a roving interview station and recorded water stories told to them by volunteers from the audience.

Margaret Noodin, faculty member at UWM, gave everyone a lesson in Ojibwe... member of the Overpass Light Brigade, with help from the audience, spelled out Ojibwe words for water and water-related terms.

Puppeteers got into the act with LED-illuminated figures of a heron and several accurately depicted species of fish native to Wisconsin waters.

The event culminated in an audience-participation creation of a peace sign with lighted cups of water, directed by artist-in-residence Melanie Ariens.

This is the short version of the story. To see many more photos of the event go to my Flickr album.

Monday, July 11, 2016

North Bank Trail nears completion in Menomonee Valley


I discovered the new North Bank Trail by chance last week. Clearly I haven’t been spending as much time in the Menomonee Valley as I did when I was artist in residence there. Although slated to be completed in the fall, the project appears to be pretty far along already.

Formerly one of the “wildest” sections of river in the Menomonee Valley, the riverbank had been severely eroded and the river’s edge virtually inaccessible. The most striking feature of the new North Bank is the re-contoured slope and burlap-encased terraces.

Situated across the river from Three Bridges Park, the new trail begins at the 33rd Court bridge and connects the existing park bike trail with the Hank Aaron State Trail in Stormwater Park.

The North Bank is not officially part of a named park. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee owns the land (as well as Three Bridges Park). In addition to providing the trail link, the project serves two other purposes: bank stabilization is intended to limit erosion and keep soil from sloughing into the river.

It also provides public access to the water via two stone staircases that anchor each end of the trail.

Previously, cyclists who crossed the bridge from the park onto 33rd Court were forced to continue past Rexnord, Palermo’s, and Ahern and to share the roads with semis and thousands of those companies’ employees. The new trail enables riders to stay off the streets and along the river—a much more enjoyable ride. 

The $1.4 million project is funded by grants from an alphabet soup of agencies, including WisDOT, CMAQ, EPA, GLRI, MMSD, and the Fund for Lake Michigan, as well as some matching funds from the City of Milwaukee. I was surprised to find that the pavement terminates in Stormwater Park where it meets the existing gravel of the Hank Aaron Trail. I learned that some of the grant funds require the asphalt and that the existing trail is not part of this project. The pavement may be extended in the future when additional funds are available.

Of course the newly stabilized bank looks unnatural—I’ve already heard that comment after posting an image on Facebook. It is one of the great paradoxes of our time (which has been dubbed the Anthropocene era because of human influence on the earth’s “natural” processes) that natural areas require human intervention in order to provide a satisfying experience of nature. This is particularly true in urban areas where there is the need is greatest.

If you need proof of the healing effect of time on such a managed landscape just go across the bridge to the park. When it opened three years ago it looked just as unnatural—and five years ago it looked far worse!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Menomonee River reconstruction nears completion

The limestone rip rap gleams in the hard mid-day sun, a beautiful sight to see. And, yes, I think it will look even better after a few years, when vegetation grows through and over it, softening its hard edges and obscuring the gleam of the white stone. But this corrective measure has been years in the making and it's good to see it nearing completion.

This one short section, right next to the Wisconsin Avenue viaduct, is all that remains of the concrete channel that was installed in the Menomonee River between the stadium and Miller Brewing in the 1060s as an ill-conceived and ultimately ineffective flood mitigation strategy. To read more about the project go to the MMSD website. To see my previous post, a photo essay showing the beginnings of this phase of the project in 2015, click here.

Meanwhile, the Kinnickinnic River project, which will remove even more concrete from that much more maligned waterway, is underway and projected to be completed in 2022. If you haven't seen it yet, my exhibit, Concrete River: Memorial and promise on the Kinnickinnic, is still on display at the Alfons Gallery through July 31. For more information, click here.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Review of springtime in Milwaukee (Yes!)

Great blue heron, Greenfield Park
Okay, Memorial Day is over and it actually feels like summer here in Milwaukee, after what felt like an interminable and frustratingly frigid spring. Well, for the most part. We did have a few nice days now and then, however fleetingly. I managed to take advantage of those nice days by visiting as many Milwaukee County Parks and natural areas as possible.

Greenfield Park
I made it to more than I usually do, some of them familiar and others for the first time.

Greenfield Park
I've selected a few shots from each, which I offer in no particular order.

Greenfield Park
Wild strawberry blossoms, Lincoln Creek detention basin
Julia Robson, Mke Co Parks Dept.
I even tagged along with a team of scientists, including Julia, who works for the Parks Department as assistant natural areas coordinator. Here she is using a loudspeaker to call a lesser bittern (if I remember correctly) in the hopes that a real one will call back. None did. But we did successfully call other species that evening.

We visited the Lincoln Creek site, above, and this unnamed (and as yet unprotected) wetland where, although there were no bitterns, we discovered other creatures, including rails and a killdeer that had hatched a brood in the middle of a gravel parking lot.

Woodland trillium patches, McGovern Park
McGovern Park
Kletsch Park
Kletsch Park
(Sadly, that luxuriant ground cover is all garlic mustard. Pretty in spring. Soon to be very ugly.)

Doyne Park
Flowering crab, Doyne Park
Jacobus Park
May apple, Jacobus Park
Falk Park
It was earlier in the spring and I'd never been to Falk before. What looks a bit like lingering snow are a carpet of tiny flowers called spring beauties.

Falk Park
Here's a close up of them. They are beautiful enough up close, but it was the sheer numbers that filled the forest floor in many parts of the park that I found astonishing. Such tiny flowers!

Ephemeral pond, Falk Park
Falk Park
Marsh marigolds, Falk Park
Violets, Falk Park
Falk Park
Most of these were brief excursions. Three of my adventures, however, merited blog posts of their own. Click on the links to go to them:
Cudahy Nature Preserve
Riveredge Nature Center (World Fish Migration Day!)
Mangan Woods