Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Urban Wilderness: The year in review

County Grounds tree cutting
The past year saw dispatches from Urban Wildernesses as far flung as London, England and the U. S. Southwest, along with coverage of a wide variety of stories much closer to home. Locally, 2013 was year of contrasts, of gains and losses in terms of urban wilderness. The year began with a bang; literally a crashing of trees and the whine of buzz saws at the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa. My January post, Slaughter on the Milwaukee County Grounds: Innovation What?, struck a nerve and blasted all records, both prior and subsequent, for Urban Wilderness readership.
Other bad news included the proposed mine in the Bad River watershed of the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin, the precedent-setting decision by the WI Public Service Commission to allow power lines to be built in Milwaukee County’s Underwood Parkway, a decision by the WI DNR to expand hunting in the state, and a developer’s popular proposal to build a residential tower on Milwaukee’s lakefront in violation of Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine. (The final outcomes of the mine and the lakefront development are still pending.)

3 Bridges Park opens
On the positive side of the ledger, Milwaukee created two fabulous new parks for its citizens to enjoy—3 Bridges Park in the Menomonee Valley and the Rotary Centennial Arboretum along the Milwaukee River.

I posted twice about 3 Bridges Park: 3 Bridges Park opens in Menomonee Valley and Photos of the opening.

Rotary Centennial Arboretum
And three times to share images of the arboretum as it developed during the year:

Also, people from all over the region continue to turn out in great numbers to help Milwaukee Riverkeeper clean up the rivers on Earth Day and the Menomonee River is finally going to be rid of the last remaining stretch of concrete channel.

Beyond all that it was another very good year for Urban Wilderness adventures. Here are a few of my favorite chronicles in chronological order:

January: An update on the tree-cutting episode at the Milwaukee County Grounds.

Starved Rock State Park, IL
In February I returned for a second look at Starved Rock State Park, not far from Chicago in Illinois: The Abstract Wild.

In March I returned to the Mke County Grounds for An Easter reflection.

Hampstead Heath, London
In May I reported on my April trip to London’s Hampstead Heath: Nature, Art and Artifice.

June found me in the Southwest where I posted from Abiquiu, NM—Desert monastery knows how to do seclusion—and southern Colorado—Colorful Colorado: a tale of tent caterpillars and pine beetles.

Millennium Reserve, Chicago, IL
In July I discovered Chicago’s Millennium Reserve, which at 140,000 acres will become the nation’s largest urban wilderness when its post-industrial landscape is fully rehabilitated: Chicago’s Millennium Reserve: A photo essay.

In August I finally made a long awaited pilgrimage to one of the most famous of all urban wildernesses: Postcards from Walden Pond.

North Park, Lincolnshire, IL
September found me off the beaten track—slightly—next to Interstate 94 outside Chicago: North Park, Lincolnshire, IL: We all live in awatershed.

In October I was fortunate enough to be able to return to New Mexico from where I filed this account of a visit to one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite sources of inspiration: The White Place.

County Grounds
December was dark, as always, which led me to post twin stories about the winter solstice.

I closed the year in the place where it began, with a photo essay from the Milwaukee County Grounds, which has become a white place of a very different sort.

Happy New Year from the Urban Wilderness!

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