Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Zimmerman is open for gallery night

You're invited!

Menomonee Valley Artist Residency
Open House

Along with my hosts at Zimmerman Architectural Studios I invite you to visit with me this Friday. Come see what I’ve been doing so far this year.

Zimmerman Architectural Studios
2122 W. Mount Vernon St.

Friday, April 25
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.

New work and works in progress will be on display.
If you have never been to the historic gas building that Zimmerman remodeled for their offices, it's worth a visit in itself!

Refreshments will be served.

Zimmerman is easy to see but hard to find. It is the large brick structure behind the tall octagonal tower near 25th Street between St. Paul and Canal Streets. Access is from 25th Street.

To learn more about the Menomonee Valley Artist in Residency and for links to blog posts and photographs, go to MV AiR.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Butterflies return to County Grounds - etched in concrete

If you live anywhere near the intersection of I-94 and I-894/Hwy 45 you probably received the latest edition of the Zoo Interchange Newsletter, as did I. It is full of maps and handy information about the progress of this massive--and massively disruptive--construction project. In addition the practical information about which ramps and roads are currently closed or under construction, you can learn about carpooling options and how much recycling the WisDOT is doing.

Did you know, for example, that the DOT "anticipates recycling the equivalent of 4,000 dump trucks full of concrete" in 2015? (What you won't learn from the newsletter is the good news that, as of yet at least, the concrete crushing that precedes all this recycling is not being done in the middle of the County Grounds.)

But what caught my eye right away was the small photograph in the lower right corner of the front page of the newsletter. It depicts "the butterfly wall" that recently has been completed under the Swan Boulevard bridge crossing Hwy 45. The concrete wall has been deeply etched with flowers and butterflies. It will be visible to motorists on Hwy 45 as they flash by. And also to anyone who uses the yet-to-be-completed underpass trail that will connect the new trail system in Innovation Park with the existing one in Wil-O-Way Woods on the north side of Swan.

The caption under the photo reads, "The 2013 Swan Boulevard project includes the construction of 'the butterfly wall' along US 45. The wall celebrates the migratory path of monarch butterflies."

Other recently rebuilt bridges sport similar designs. The airport spur has airplanes etched into the bridge abutments. The most interesting one, I think, is the I-43 bridge over Fon du Lac Avenue. In raised relief it commemorates the underground railroad and the struggle for civil rights.

I think it's great that the DOT is decorating the highways. They could go further, it seems to me. There are all those sound barriers being erected along the freeways to protect adjacent neighborhoods from the incessant noise. Why not liven them up with graphic designs?

But instead of cheering me up the butterfly wall saddens me. Last fall the migration that the wall celebrates was disappointing. It may have been temporary. It certainly was part of a larger problem that extended throughout the historic monarch migration routes and was most noticeable in the wintering grounds of Michoacan, Mexico.

Loss of habitat is the most often cited reason for the decline, as is the case with so many other animal species. At the County Grounds an 11-acre segment of the Innovation Park campus has been set aside as protected monarch habitat. With proper and persistent care and maintenance, perhaps it will enable the butterflies to return in future years. That is the hope.

For now we have concrete freeway walls etched with commemorative butterflies. I had to go see them for myself. With construction suspended for Easter Sunday I was able to do so. Here is what I saw.

The small sign in the center, erected by the Friends of the Monarch Trail, reads, "Butterfly habitat restoration project."

There is a second "butterfly wall" under construction along the unfinished cloverleaf ramp for the new Watertown Plank Road interchange.

A small wetland habitat next to the Eschweiler complex is staked with protective flags.

The boarded engineering building, part of the Eschweiler complex, awaits its fate: restoration if all goes well; demolition if not.

ABB is the first business to be located in the Innovation Park campus. The building is expected to open sometime this spring.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Denis Sullivan leaves winter harbor, heads for Lake Michigan

"Wisconsin's official flagship," the Denis Sullivan left its winter berth on the Menomonee River yesterday. Owned and operated by Discovery World, the Denis Sullivan is "the world’s only re-creation of a 19th century three-masted Great Lakes schooner," according to the Discovery World website. It's mission is "To provide programming that is an introduction to field science with an emphasis on environmental issues, Great Lakes concerns and stewardship of our natural world."

Preparation for the short voyage from the Menomonee Valley to its active berth on the Discovery World pier has been going on all week. The ship has been shrouded all winter in a motley collection of tarps recycled from discarded canvas billboards. These were removed and carefully folded for future reuse. Crew members and volunteers worked diligently to prepare the vessel for sailing. 

The passage downriver was made without raising the sails, using the ships engines. An inflatable dingy helped turn and guide the big ship. The crew was joined by eager Discovery World staff. Everyone was bundled up against a biting east wind that brought cold temperatures off Lake Michigan.

Here's my photo essay of the event.

Crew member Kristian folding tarps
Crew member Johnny bearing tatoos of tall ships
A volunteer scrapes paint
A ship shape deck

Debris in the water
Staffers waiting to sail
Johhny on deck
Casting off
The bow
Captain Tiffany Krihwan at the helm
Underway in reverse
Menomonee River
Making the turn
Passing the post office
Enjoying the ride
Bridge up at the confluence with Milwaukee River

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.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Update: How to grow an arboretum.

It's been a while since I've visited the Rotary Centennial Arboretum. Since Autumn to be precise. Well, spring is here--at last! And among other things that means people are out again at the Arboretum, adding new plants, mulching and doing all the other things needed to make the still largely empty land come alive.

How do you grow an arboretum? Well, if your arboretum is on land reclaimed from a brownfield of broken bricks, you look among the piles for newly staked seedlings. Here is what I found when I visited yesterday.

Joel, an Urban Ecology Center staffer.

Similar activity was taking place farther downstream along the Milwaukee River where the River Revitalization Foundation is beautifying its recently acquired property near North Avenue. I arrived shortly after burlap was laid down over the cleared and reseeded slope.

Tanya, an RRF staffer.

To view previous installments showing progress on the Arboretum:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Should the fate our natural resources be up to hunters and trappers?


Wisconsin Conservation Congress meets next Monday

Let me say at the outset that I am not and never have been opposed to hunting. Deer hunting, that is. In a well-regulated manner and in proper locations.

In recent years the State of Wisconsin, influenced heavily by hunters and trappers, has expanded the types of hunting and trapping allowed, the locations and times these activities can take place, and the age at which young people can participate, among many other things. To give just one example, although the population is still tenuous, as soon as the Gray Wolf was delisted as an endangered species a proposal to allow hunting was passed. 

The fate of Wisconsin’s natural resources is indeed left up to hunters and trappers, for the most part. This is because hunters and trappers make up the overwhelming majority of participants in the annual Conservation Congress, which is the most influential public hearing on DNR policies and regulations.

DNR policies affect everyone who enjoys the natural resources of Wisconsin: hikers, birders, canoeists, kayakers, skiers, etc. The hunters and trappers are always well represented at the Conservation Congress and they have a right to be there. But other voices need to be heard as well.

How about yours?

I plan to be there, but it will take a lot of voices to balance those who represent hunting and fishing interests.

Please attend:
Wisconsin Conservation Congress

Monday, April 14, 2014 @ 7:00 p.m.

Nathan Hale High School Auditorium, 11601 W Lincoln Avenue, West Allis

(This location is for residents of Milwaukee County. If you live in another county, please attend the appropriate meeting: DNR spring hearings locations.

Among the questions on this year’s ballot are the following:

·      Question #48: Do you support legislation to allow hunters to enter private property without asking permission, to follow their packs of dogs?
·      # 36: Do you support the legislature authorizing the DNR to start a tundra swan hunt?
·      # 35: Do you support the legislature authorizing the DNR to kill our 75 rare white deer statewide?
·      # 45: Do you support the DNR dropping any hour restrictions for trapping statewide in state parks and all publicly purchased lands, so trappers can be out trapping all night?
·      # 43: Children of any age can trap.  Do you support the DNR making it easier for children of any age to trap by allowing them to trap mentored by an adult present, since they are not old enough to understand or attend a trapping course?

Thank you to Patricia Randolph, who blogs at Madravenspeak, for the above information.

I encourage you to read the fair and balanced article about the upcoming Conservation  Congress from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Have your say on state's natural resources.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

“Mingle for Monarchs” at Sugar Maple

The Friends of the Monarch Trail invite you to a FREE event:
“Mingle for Monarchs” at Sugar Maple

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
441 E. Lincoln Ave. Milwaukee, WI

Enjoy an evening with fellow supporters of the Monarch Trail for free appetizers, a cash bar and awesome silent auction items including:

~For Foodies~

Restaurant certificates to:
Café Manna, Pizza Shuttle, Le Reve, Blue’s Egg, Maxie’s, Centro Café, Milwaukee Food Tours, beverages from Horny Goat Hideaway, Sprecher, Great Lakes Distillery, and more!

~For those that appreciate nature or getting your hands in the dirt~
Gift basket from the Wild Ones, high class European garden tools, plants, Amish Craftsmen Guild Swallowtail Butterfly folding cabana reclining chair and certificates from Prairie Nursery and Fruit of the Bloom!

Other Silent Auction items:
Artwork and books from local artists, a dulcimer, Butterfly T-Shirts, Cream City Soap Co., tickets to: Milw. County Zoo, Discovery World, Milw. Admirals, Waukesha Skating, Landmark Theatre, Milw. Rep, and tours to: Sprecher, Great Lakes Distillery, and the Harley Davidson Museum!

The Friends are going to restore every area on the trail we possibly can to help bring back the monarchs!  This will take resources to purchase plants as well as outreach and education for people who want to join in our effort.
Please share this invite and bring family, friends, co-workers and all Monarch Butterfly fans to come out to enjoy a fun evening of “Mingling for the Monarch Butterfly!”

We NEED you there to make this a fun & successful event!
Thank you!

To download an event poster and for more information, please visit www.themonarchtrail.org

Sneak preview: the silent auction includes a framed print of this sunset I shot at the Monarch Trail on the County Grounds.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Photo Phenology

Phenology refers to the observation of seasonal plant and animal life cycles. Aldo Leopold was a habitual phenologist. Substantial portions of his classic book, A Sand County Almanac, are devoted to such observations. Photography, of course, can serve the phenologist well with its ability to record the visible world with indiscriminate accuracy—as long as you know where to point the camera!

The Menomonee Valley Branch of the Urban Ecology Center has undertaken a long-term project that it calls Photo Phenology. The idea was inspired by the proximity of the Center to newly rehabilitated parklands in the Menomonee Valley. Stormwater Park, 3 Bridges Park, and the Hank Aaron State Trail are all a short walk from their back door. 

tracks in the mud
Once a month, on the fourth Saturday, a team equipped with UEC point-and-shoot cameras goes out on a regular route to record the changes that are happening with the seasons. Last Saturday I accompanied UEC staff members Lainet and Michael on their rounds. They explained that certain vantage places are repeated each time to establish consistent points of reference. They capture several views of the river and the broad landscape. They also keep their eyes open for small details and ephemeral changes, such as animal tracks, blossoming flowers, etc.

We chose Stormwater Park, an undulating strip of swales and ponds under the 35th Street Viaduct that functions as a passive runoff treatment area for the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center. Because this was the first outing since the snow melted away (finally!), we observed a greater than usual accumulation of trash. Another UEC program called Volunteer Park Rangers is devoted to clean up and maintenance of the parks.

Here are some of the things we saw on our phenological excursion. Leopold, indefatigable phenologist as he was, knew its limitations as well. He cautions us not to read too much into surface appearances: “It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of the salient facts about any one of them.”



invasive teasel

Stormwater Park



layered landscape


Valley Passage
out in front

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.