Sunday, May 29, 2011

May in Milwaukee County Parks

May has been a month of transition. With a much delayed spring this year, it felt more like March, coming in like a lion, out like a lamb. Most of the natural areas in the parks were still very brown at the end of April. June is going to arrive with its usual exuberant greens. Although this is my first post in over a week - end of the school year is always busy - I have been out walking throughout the month. So I thought I'd share a selection of my picture takings over the past month.

A single shoot of marsh grass manages to poke its way through the mud-matted residue from last year in the Root River Parkway in Franklin.

The Root River, like so many others in the Milwaukee Basin, has suffered from the effects of increased runoff caused by continued development in the watershed. Once-stable banks held fast by riparian tree roots have been deeply eroded.

As storm clouds clear over the lake in Jackson Park a lone goose glides over the water.

The statue of Thaddeus Kosciuszko that gives Kosciuszko Park its name is the only green so far.

The grass has greened up in McCarty Park, West Allis, but the concrete channel that lines Honey Creek remains eternally drab.

Flowers finally bloom! An unlikely hillside full of bluebells slopes down towards the Menomonee River underneath the looming Highway 41 overpass in Doyne Park.

The overcast sky didn't keep crowds from gathering on the lakefront yesterday for a kite fly-in at Veteran's Park.

I finally found myself immersed in rich green foliage this weekend on a long walk through a swampy section of the Little Menomonee River Parkway. Here is the view upstream from the Hampton Avenue Bridge.

Perseverence - and boots - rewarded me with this find. I approached it with reverence and left it intact. The adult redwing blackbirds that hovered in trees nearby didn't even create their usual clamor while I made the shot. The nest is about chest high in last year's dried cattails. New green shoots will soon rise up around it.

To see additional pictures from this month's forays into the urban wildernesses that grace Milwaukee County Parks, go to my flickr page.

May isn't over! After posting the above last night, I went for a bike ride up the Little Menomonee River Parkway this morning. Hot! Feels suddenly like summer. Where did spring go?

I discovered a flooded section of the path and in it a swarm of tadpoles! Cool. Yet more pix on flickr.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Richard Louv: "we need a Nature Movement."

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and his new book The Nature Principle, was as thoughtful and inspiring as expected when he spoke at the Urban Ecology Center last night to an overflow crowd. He did not read from the book, but from notes he said he wrote on the train down from Minnesota. (He's on a multi-city tour.) I'll give you a few highlights that made an impression on me.

"We need a Nature Movement," he asserted, in contrast to what has long been called the environmental movement. He observed that the latter term has become loaded with political baggage and that "words matter." Nature is a safe, non-threatening word.

When someone in the audience asked "what is the definition of nature he chuckled and said that it's "like the Supreme Court's definition of pornography: you know it when you see it." But after explaining that there is no universally accepted definition, for him nature is "when I am in meaningful kinship with species other than my own."

"A movement will fail if it cannot paint a picture of a world that people want to go to," Louv quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying. Today the environmental movement tends to present a bleak view of the future. Popular culture gives us Blade Runner, Mad Max, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy (read my review). We need a Nature Movement that provides a positive, attractive alternative to the future. "Environmentalism is a pup tent. We need a larger tent," he said.

He wrote The Nature Principle because Last Child in the Woods, being about our children growing up with "nature-deficit disorder," is too limited in scope. He told a story about a woman who came up to him after a reading who grabbed him by the lapels and complained that nature-deficit disorder afflicts adults too! And so he set to work on The Nature Principle in order to address the larger problem.

"Conservation [of natural areas] is not enough. We need to create nature." Yes, he said, we still need work hard to conserve the nature that remains, but with over 50% of the world's population living in cities, the need for nearby nature is more pressing than ever. We have come to the point where two futures are possible for our human species: having no connection with nature or making new cities where it is possible to make that connection. (No surprise: here at Urban Wilderness I believe in making those new cities. In fact, I applaud everything Louv had to say!)

One of Louv's main ideas is to develop a network of Nature Clubs for Families that will help get not just children but whole families out in nature. It's a marvelous idea with a proven track record - and you can check it out on the Children and Nature Network website.

Louv has a laid-back, soft-spoken style and a wry, subtle sense of humor, but the audience was rapt and clearly moved. At several points he asked for questions. One person choked up as she explained that she'd tried for two hard years to create a family nature program similar to the Nature Club with frustrating results. She wondered tearfully how she could make it work. Louv's voice softened even further in sympathy. He said, "It isn't easy, I know." His suggestion was to use the tools available on the website and not to go it alone. I can relate to that. There is always so much resistance and not just the overt oppositional kind. More important are ingrained cultural habits such as the irrational fear of "stranger danger" that keeps parents from allowing their children to roam freely and make up their own rules (as I did when I was young.) We need each others' support!

Orion Magazine posts Urban Water Trail story online

If you're not already familiar with Orion Magazine, I recommend it. Their beat is "Nature/Culture/Place" and they publish essays, poetry, and short fiction. They have a feature in the magazine and online called The Place Where You Live, which invites readers to submit a short essay/story that reflects on what they love about where they live. They recently posted my submission, which is about canoeing the Milwaukee River Greenway and the Urban Water Trail. The story is accompanied by six of my photographs (two of which you see here.) Check it out by clicking here.

You can read a longer version of this story, which was published in Waterkeeper Magazine, and see more photos on my website.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Richard Louv to speak at Urban Ecology Center

If you follow Urban Wilderness you may already know this, but Richard Louv wrote the book that I consider the most important concerning our relationship with nature since at least McKibben's The End of Nature and very possibly since Carson's Silent Spring. It is Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. If you haven't read it, well, get it asap!

Louv has written a new book, called The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder and he will be giving a talk about it at the Urban Ecology Center next Wednesday, May 18 at 7 pm.

I signed up to attend as soon as I saw the announcement in their online newsletter. (If you're not already a member, what are you waiting for?!)
Here's the announcement:

Author Richard Louv has some important questions for us:
“Does your daily nature intake include running on the treadmill with a forest scene on the TV monitor in front of you? Or perhaps playing WII tennis with your kids – instead of playing outside in a real tennis court?”

In his new book, The Nature Principle, Louv explains how we are increasingly surrounded with new technology and why that means we need contact with nature even more. Next Wednesday, May 18th from 7 – 9pm, we are honored to host Louv as he reads from and discusses The Nature Principle at our Riverside Park location.

Click here to see a video about the new book.

Louv is also the author of Last Child in the Woods, in which he explains a condition he calls “nature-deficit disorder” – the negative effects of a lack of contact with nature. In fact, the second edition of this book includes a description of Louv’s visit to our Riverside Park location!

Along with a group of like-minded folks, Louv also helped to start the Children & Nature Network to help facilitate the increasingly important connection between kids and the outdoors.

Needless to say, we’re thrilled to be hosting him and we hope that you’ll join us for his talk next week! If you’d like to purchase The Nature Principle, Boswell Books will be selling them at the event.

Seating is limited, be sure to reserve a seat by calling the Urban Ecology Center at (414) 964-8505.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring babies in Wild Wauwatosa

Read my latest post from Wild Wauwatosa.
It's about a new crop of infant wildlife.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day from Julia Ward Howe

This post is only tangentially related to my Urban Wilderness theme, but Julia Ward Howe's plea for peace, if ever achieved, would be one of the best things we could do for the environment.

Howe, who is often remembered as the writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, is also remembered for conceiving of Mother's Day long before it became a national holiday and ploy to sell flowers, cards, and long-distance calls. In response to the carnage of the Civil War, Howe published the following proclamation in 1870.

Sadly, we still have a long way to go to achieve her vision:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From
the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
of justice."

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a
great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of

Friday, May 6, 2011

MK-Eat, Art, and Urban Wilderness

MK-Eat is Milwaukee’s version of a community-building and arts-supporting fundraising effort that has been done successfully in other cities. The public is invited to a dinner/presentation event and in return for a $15 donation gets a meal and the chance to vote on an arts proposal.

The event is tomorrow evening, May 7, at The Riverwest Public House,
815 E Locust St. It runs from 6-9 pm.

The main event is a series of presentations by the artists who have submitted proposals for projects that will benefit the community.

There will be eight presenters, including myself. You can get a preview of the proposals on the MK-Eat website.  You can also sign up for the dinner and/or make a donation.

We who are presenting our proposals have been encouraged to self promote as well as to encourage any and all to come, if you have an inclination to do so. This is my invitation. I’d love to see all the supporters of my two blogs, Arts WithoutBorders and Urban Wilderness, join me for this event.

Yes, I’m grateful for the support I’ve gotten over the past year when I’ve been blogging on these two platforms. This MK-Eat event gives me a rare opportunity to cross over and share with both audiences why I do both.

I am a fine art photographer and although my work includes a variety of subjects the one that occupies most of my time and attention is what I’ve long called the Urban Wilderness Project. I have been using my artwork for many years, often in conjunction with environmental groups, to express my belief that urban and suburban dwellers will benefit from greater exposure to natural areas in our parklands. My proposal for MK-Eat combines my love of photography with my love of Milwaukee’s park system. You can read much more about the project on mywebsite – and see many photographs there, too.

Here is one recent example from the Urban Wilderness Project. I call it "Wraith." It is from Milwaukee's lakefront.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

County Grounds public hearing Monday May 2

Monarch Trail and Innovation Park site
I am forwarding the following announcement from the Friends of the Monarch Trail. I hope you will join me and give your input at this important meeting:

The City of Wauwatosa is hosting an open house for public input regarding trail connections on the County Grounds – Monday, May 2.

May 2nd –   4:30 - 7:00 pm
Wil-O-Way   @  Underwood Parkway

10602 W Underwood Creek Parkway (across from Hanson golf course)

Please come share your ideas for the “master trail plan” that is to be implemented by the National Parks Service. Several parcels that are owned and must be maintained by different agencies will have trails, including the State Forestry Education Center, the new Milwaukee County Park, and the MMSD detention basins, as well as the UWM Innovation Park complex.

The Friends of the Monarch Trail have worked hard to preserve the Monarch Trail, the butterfly habitat, and the natural environment on the County Grounds. Now is the time to get the Monarch Trail on the official Map! We thank you for being persistent in your efforts to preserve this critical habitat~
**Brief presentations describing the project will be given at 5:00 and again at 6:00 pm 

Please take time to stop in wherever you can fit it in between 4:30 and 7Pm. This is the one chance to show our interest in the Monarch Trail and how it will connect with the rest of the trail system being created on the County Grounds.
Talking points to comment on:

·        End results should provide first and foremost for the needs of the habitat; this is the main attraction and the reason for the Monarch Trail.

·        Connecting the Monarch Trail to the other trails will make them all more successful because it is and attraction and highlight that stimulates curiosity and interest.

·        Mention possible negative impacts along with solutions.  The 11-acre monarch habitat is too small to accommodate paved paths or room for bicycles. The idea for this segment of trail is to provide a peaceful place for observation, photography, and not a tract for commuting through; a good comparison would be Wehr Nature Center. There are areas for tramp trails and more appropriate places for bike trails.
There will be thoroughfares for bicycles and vehicle access to the habitat via the residential roadways and parking lots.

·         Preservation of the natural scenery to provide views is also an attraction as well as the historical features such as the Eschweiler buildings. All planning of trails that is not in keeping with the scenery or which would obscure, distort, or detract from the integrity of the environment should be avoided. The trails are for humans, but the environment comes first.

·         The wildlife and ecosystem depend on our protection. The trails should be integrated in a way that enhances and protects the landscapes that support wildlife.

·        Promote the need to preserve the woods behind the Ronald McDonald House as part of the trail system. Milwaukee County should retain these valuable woods in order to reconnect the environmental corridor. 

Metaphor? I hope not.