Score one for the urban wilderness today! With bright spring sun for a spotlight and the newly green foliage surrounding Caesar’s Pool for a backdrop, a large gathering of prestigious folks assembled in the parking lot of Melanec’s Wheelhouse. The remains of that former restaurant have been boarded and await demolition. With a simple handshake, John Chowanec, the former owner, ceremoniously handed ownership of the 2.8 acre property over to the Executive Director of the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF), Kimberly Gleffe, while the Secretary of the Wisconsin DNR, Matt Frank, looked on.
Although small, this strip of land at the curve of the Milwaukee River has been, until now, a vital missing link. Over the past ten years the RRF has quietly acquired land and developed the Beer Line and East Bank trails that create a now continuous loop along both sides of the Milwaukee River. This new property anchors the south end of this loop on the west side of the river right at the point where it changes abruptly from urban wilderness to the canyon of condominiums downstream of Humboldt Blvd.
There is still work to be done. Today’s ceremony kicks off a capital campaign to raise the relatively small amount still needed to complete the demolition and development of a new park. (To contribute, click here. I have and will again.) Landscaping will tie it to the river corridor as surely as the pedestrian bridge already connects it to Caesar’s Pool Park across the river. It is worth the time, expense, and effort. The Milwaukee River corridor is already an unparalleled urban wilderness experience. (I’ve written about it before.) This is the final piece of a beautiful puzzle.
The wilderness that runs in my veins warmed to the words spoken by several of the distinguished guests. Secretary Franks established the theme by saying “we know we can have sustainable cities.” Yes! He went on to articulate how important it is to protect open spaces and connect people to the land, “not only in rural spaces, but also in urban areas.” Yes! He concluded by asserting that inner city children should be able to go outdoors, to hike in nature, and to see wildlife. Yes!
My hearty thanks from here at the urban wilderness blog to RRF, DNR, MMSD and everyone else who made this possible!
A thorough account of the purchase and links to media coverage can be found on the RRF website.
East Bank trail and the North Avenue Bridge