Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Underwood Parkway: Wildlife graces construction zones

It seems as though there is construction going on everywhere this summer - including in some of our parklands. Underwood Parkway, between 115th St. and Bluemound in Wauwatosa, is one of my regular routes. I've passed by its labyrinthine arrangement of construction fences many times since construction began on new power lines last June. (See my previous post about that unfortunate project.)

Yesterday as I drove along the parkway I spotted two adolescent fawns. One was between two lines of fencing, browsing on the grass. The other was standing directly in front of the closest rank of construction fences, as if the bright orange pattern was a studio backdrop. I wish! Fortunately, I had my camera with me. Unfortunately, it was in the trunk of the car. By the time I pulled over, got the camera out and lined up a shot the deer had jumped over the fence to join its sibling.

I took a few shots. As I was doing so, leaning casually against my car in order to minimize the chance of startling them (they looked up at me periodically to see what I might be doing), a large doe wandered into the scene.

After taking a few more shots I continued on with my errand. On my way back I slowed to see if I would spot the deer again. Lo and behold, not deer this time, but no fewer than seven wild turkeys were strolling along the lawn near the fencing. Three of them were youngsters (or females?), judging by size and coloration. But the other four were the largest wild turkeys I've ever seen!

They were predictably camera shy (maybe thinking about Thanksgiving as autumn arrives!) They scurried off into the riparian woods when I started trying to get close for a good photo.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Anniversary! The Wilderness Act turns 50 today.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law on September 3, 1964. Today there are 758 designated wilderness areas in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Happy anniversary, from the (undesignated) Urban Wilderness!

The photo is of the Fox River near Muckwanago from a recent canoe trip.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Public hearing on fate of Estabrook Dam tomorrow

Courtesy: Milwaukee Riverkeeper
I am forwarding the following from Milwaukee Riverkeeper. Please consider attending the public hearing (details below) or sending a message to your county supervisor (contact info below).

Help Us Remove the Deadbeat Estabrook Dam!

Quick Facts about Estabrook Dam:

1) Milwaukee County built the Estabrook Dam in 1937 to elevate water levels for recreation (following some blasting of bedrock to alleviate flooding). Milwaukee County failed to maintain and repair the Dam per State Dam Safety regulations over the years. In 2009, the gates were ordered permanently open by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) due to hazardous conditions.  

2) Recent studies of the Dam have shown that it increases flooding upstream, poses a liability for Milwaukee County, and will lead to increased flood insurance costs for upstream residents.

3) The ecological health created by a free flowing river offers greater long term value than maintaining the present impoundment behind the Dam. Dam removal will: a.) allow fish to swim to upstream spawning habitats and restore the natural and wild aspect of the Milwaukee River; b.) reduce flooding upstream of the Dam; c.) improve water quality upstream of the Dam; and d.) improve recreational opportunities such as fishing and paddling.

4) Over $8 million has been spent upstream to improve access for fish to spawning habitat via dam removal and construction of fish passage structures.  The removal of the Estabrook Dam would expand the benefits of those projects.

5) County consultants estimate it will cost 3 times as much to repair than remove the Dam if maintenance costs of $2.6 million are included for the next 20 years (the estimated life expectancy of the Dam). These costs do not include the administrative costs associated with state and federal permitting required for the Estabrook Dam.

How You Can Help!

1) Attend the County’s Public Information Meeting on the draft Environmental Assessment:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Nicolet HS (Cafeteria)

2) Contact your County Supervisor and the County Executive and tell them that Estabrook Dam should be removed (contact info on back). The County Board Parks, Energy and Environment Committee will vote on a "preferred alternative" for the Dam at their meeting on Tuesday, September 9th. The full Milwaukee County Board will vote on their preferred alternative on Thursday, September 18th.  Public comments on the draft EA will be accepted by the County through September 17th at surveymonkey.com/s/EstabrookDamComments.

3) Attend the County Parks, Energy, and Environment Meeting on Tuesday September 9th. The Agenda is posted one week in advance, but this meeting typically begins at 9 AM at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Room 301-B.

4) The WDNR and Bureau of Land Management (who owns some of the land the dam sits on) have both indicated that they will hold a public hearing to fulfill state and federal permitting requirements pertaining to dam operations and construction. We will publish information as it becomes available. 

5) To receive more information, please email: christina@milwaukeeriverkeeper.org and keep up-to-date on our facebook page, or our website at: http://milwaukeeriverkeeper.org/content/estabrook-dam-removal.  

To find your supervisor go to:
http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PreserveOurParks/9e7fec6aa7/3865a739aa/42340b9b41 and click on “Find Your District or Supervisor.”
Then click on the photo of the supervisor to get to contact information.

(Full disclosure: I was formerly on the board of Milwaukee Riverkeeper.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kayaking the Menomonee with Milwaukee Riverkeeper

This week Milwaukee Riverkeeper hosted the second in a series of three kayaking expeditions. Each has been meant to explore one of Milwaukee's three rivers. The first, in July, headed up the Milwaukee River. This time it was the Menomonee. The third will tour the Kinnickinnic River on September 30. (For information or to register, click here.) 

Jennifer Bolger Breceda, Milwaukee Riverkeeper's new Executive Director joined us for the tour guided by Cheryl Nenn, who is the official riverkeeper. Thanks go out to the Milwaukee Kayak Company for supplying the kayaks and supporting Riverkeeper.

I went along to document the event and to provide a water's-eye view of the Menomonee Valley.  Here is my photo essay.

We put in off the Milwaukee Kayak Co. slip at 318 S. Water St., near the rustic (and rusty) railroad swivel bridge in the Milwaukee River.

It was a beautiful evening and we were passed by several cruise lines before we reached the Menomonee River.

Two of our expedition beneath the railroad bridge at the confluence of the Menomonee with the Milwaukee.

The 2nd St. Bridge follows immediately after the RR bridge.

Instead of proceeding up the Menomonee proper, we turned the corner into the Menomonee Canal and past the Harley Davidson Museum.

The Global Water Center from the water.

Paddling past the Reed Street Yards.

The newly opened Hank Aaron State Trail ramp provides access from the Sixth Street Bridge down to the Reed Street Yards segment of the trail.

Brandon is one of the Milwaukee Kayak Co. staff.

Beth is the owner of Milwaukee Kayak Co.

Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, provided a running commentary as we paddled.

Jennifer Bolger Breceda, Executive Director of Milwaukee Riverkeeper as we entered the Burnham Canal.

There are a few additional photos of the event in my Menomonee Valley flickr album.

(Full disclosure: I was formerly on the board of Milwaukee Riverkeeper.)

This post is one in a series that relates to my Menomonee Valley Artist in Residency. For more information about the residency and links to previous posts and photographs, go to MV AiR.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

County Board is considering the sale of O’Donnell Park


Imagine the public outcry if Milwaukee County were to consider selling Lake Park, Washington Park, Whitnall Park, or any other park in its award-winning park system. There ought to be an outcry. Our parks should not be for sale.

And yet, the County Board is in fact considering the sale of one of its parks. As a board member of Preserve Our Parks I am forwarding the following appeal. I hope you will join me in opposing this effort. If you can’t attend the public hearing (details below) please contact your county supervisor. (If you need help scroll down for contact info and talking points.) And please forward this message to your friends!

View from O'Donnell Park
Dear friend of the parks,

Our parks are at a crossroads, and we are asking for your help. Milwaukee County is proposing to sell O’Donnell Park to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. NML is undergoing an expansion that will add some 1600 new workers to its staff, and it needs more staff parking. O’Donnell Park is located one block from NML, on the lakefront. This unusual park’s street-level plaza and pavilion sit on top of a 1300-car parking garage. This roomy garage could help alleviate NML’s parking problems.

The trouble is, NML does not want to simply rent garage space in O’Donnell Park. It wants to buy the park in its entirety—the plaza and pavilion and the garage underneath.

Please come to a county hearing on September 10 to learn more about the proposed sale and help express to Milwaukee County that our parks are not for sale. O’Donnell serves as a superb conduit between downtown and the lakefront. Its garage earns the County $2 million a year in parking revenues. Its preservation is essential—if O’Donnell can be sold, any park can be sold. And the fact is, NML has other options for providing employee parking.

We applaud NML for its commitment to downtown and for the vibrancy it brings to our city, but our parks are not for sale. Please attend the hearing to give the County this message: Keep O’Donnell under public ownership and control. Do not turn it over to private, commercial ownership. Please ask your friends and neighbors to join you at the meeting.


Wednesday, September 10, 6:30 p.m.


Free parking next door in O’Donnell Park garage.
Enter garage from Michigan St. or Lincoln Memorial Drive.


A simple email or phone call will suffice. If you don’t know your supervisor’s name follow the county board link. If you email please click ‘bcc’ and enter info@preserveourparks.org. It is important for us to know how many supervisors are being contacted.

Tell them loud and clear: “Our parks are not for Sale.” Let’s keep O’Donnell a public park, for our use now and for handing on to future generations.

Talking Points

• O’Donnell Park has our city’s best, most inspiring, location. Let’s keep it in public hands, for our use now and as a heritage we can pass on to future generations.

• Private ownership of parks means loss of protection, not preservation.

• If O’Donnell is sold, any park can be sold.

• O’Donnell Park is an “earner.” It produces over $2,000,000 per year in net operating revenues from parking alone, which helps support all our parks.

• O’Donnell Park is built on land that has been a park since 1868. It has weathered previous fiscal crises, and will weather this one.

• Park deeds require that parks be used only for park purposes and prohibit transferring the land to private entities. The public has the right to have these deeds honored.

Gateway to museum and lakefront
To find your supervisor go to:

http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PreserveOurParks/9e7fec6aa7/3865a739aa/42340b9b41 and click on “Find Your District or Supervisor.”

Then click on the photo of the supervisor to get to contact information.

To contact Preserve Our Parks:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dramatic storm rolls over the Milwaukee County Grounds

I couldn't believe what I was seeing as I drove across the Swan Boulevard bridge yesterday. I rushed back home to retrieve my camera and got back just in time to catch this remarkable cloud rolling toward me over the west detention basin of the County Grounds.

It was moving so fast I could hardly keep up with it! Here it rolls overhead. I grabbed this shot and raced back to the car to reach the overlook at the top of the hill. It almost got away from me. The final shot is looking east over the County Grounds Park towards downtown. The US Bank building is barely visible in the distance. What you can't see from these single shots is how wide the cloud was. It stretched across the entire horizon. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

7th Annual Migration Celebration on the County Grounds a great success!

Yesterday the Friends of the Monarch Trail held their 7th Annual Migration Celebration on the Milwaukee County Grounds. The activities took place in the quadrangle of the Eschweiler buildings and around them in the butterfly habitat zone. It was a beautiful day!

Many of the usual activities took place. Butterflies were tagged and released. A long line of people took a tour of the Monarch Trail. Ceol Cairde once again provided lively Irish music.

A new addition this year was a "Moving for Monarchs" Program featuring dancer Gwynedd Vetter-Drusch. It became far more than a performance as Vetter-Drusch engaged with the large crowd, solicited interactive dance moves, and led everyone in a group dance celebrating the Monarch migration. It was lovely to see so many enthusiastic supporters dancing together. I was too enthralled myself to take photos during the group dance but here is Vetter-Drusch in butterfly costume performing later with Ceol Cairde.