Saturday, April 20, 2013

Milwaukee's rivers get cleaned up

It was a chilly but bright morning and Milwaukee area residents turned out in force to clean up the three rivers. The annual River Clean Up occurs on the Saturday closest to Earth Day. It is sponsored by Milwaukee Riverkeeper, the Urban Ecology Center, among other organizations. I toured three of the sites many sites where crews were out picking up trash and other debris. Here is a brief photo essay of the morning's activity, which included a stranger than usual find in one of the rivers.

First stop: Honey Creek in Wauwatosa.

Lindsay and Mel pause for a pose.

Barcalounger, anyone?

A group of girls from St. Joan Antida High School lend a hand.

Next stop, the Menomonee Valley. Here volunteers stroll along the Hank Aaron State Trail near Miller Park.

Picking up trash on the riverbank near the Hank Aaron State Trail's Valley Passage.

Jeff, a staff member of the Menomonee Valley Branch of the Urban Ecology Center, tries to wrestle a large piece of sheet metal from the river.

An Urban Ecology Center team picks invasive garlic mustard in conjunction with the river clean up.

My third stop was the Kinnickinnic River, where some heavy lifting was going on.

Seriously heavy lifting!

Luckily Poseidon lent a hand. (His real name is Tim.)

Wes wins the annual prize for finding the strangest item in the river. This leather valise was discovered to contain articles of clothing, a pistol, and bricks. The bricks, presumably, were in there to make sure the stash of incriminating evidence stayed at the bottom of the river. Little did the perpetrators of whatever this implies know that the riverkeepers would discover it!

Someone called 911 and within minutes officers Pelczynski and Campos responded. They cautiously inspected the bag.

And retrieved the gun.

Close inspection revealed it to be a BB gun. The story of its disposal in the river, in the bag with the clothing, remains a mystery.

To see additional photos, go to my flickr page

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Urban Wilderness on Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin Public Radio has a feature called Wisconsin Life for which people around the state are invited to tell a story. I recently recorded a story about finding evidence of beavers in the only remaining wetland in the historic estuary in downtown Milwaukee. The radio piece was adapted from one of my Urban Wilderness posts, called Seiche. The radio piece aired this morning, but you can download the podcast and listen to it by clicking here. It is three minutes long.

The original story, Seiche, is longer and includes photographs. I posted it Oct. 30, 2011. To read that version, click here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How wild is London?

This is the first in a series of installments that I plan to write about my recent experiences in London. These will alternate on my two blogs, as I was there to discover both parks and the wealth of arts that London has to offer. In the end I envision a synthesis of these interests for one of the most important things I learned in London, an enormous city that is both ancient and modern, is that separating things into discrete categories is difficult and in the end a distortion of the total experience.

Installment 1: Arrival

The aluminum tube with wings that delivered my wife and me across the Atlantic Ocean lands without incident at Heathrow Airport somewhere on the outskirts of London. After a brief train ride aboveground through a dreary-looking urban landscape, reminiscent of BBC productions of Masterpiece Mystery, we are deposited in Paddington Station. We descend to London’s famous underground for a ride on the Tube. An hour and a half and two transfers later, we ascend two long escalators. We have traversed most of London and crossed under the river Thames, although there is no way of knowing this. Completely disoriented, we huddle in the shelter of the Cutty Sark Station in Greenwich, greeted with gusting flurries of snow.

Our ten-day adventure in London begins with this auspicious sign. Others might have viewed it with apprehension. Snow in April, while not unheard of, is definitely not what we expected. We would soon learn that Londoners too were particularly happy to be rid of March, which had broken records for cold temperatures. So far April was proving to be similarly disappointing. But for me the blustery weather signals the presence of the unexpected, which author David Gessner identifies as one of the primary characteristics of the wild.

Gessner proclaims, “…wildness can happen anywhere. You can’t put a fence around it. It can happen in the jungle or on a city river.” Perhaps even on a city street, although I wouldn’t want to pound the idea into meaninglessness. This snow isn’t what I came to London to experience by any means. I would have been far happier with warm sunshine. But the unseasonable snow is nature’s way of asserting itself—inserting itself into even one of the largest cities on the planet. And its unpredictability quotient has increased in recent years, to the point where only the few and the rigidly ideological deny the effects of climate change.

Still dragging my rolling luggage behind me, I tighten my scarf, zip up my coat, and walk into the swirl of snow. Welcome to London.

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The towers of London's docklands dissolve in the misty background. 

To read installment number 2, about London's National Gallery of Art, click here

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wisconsin's Conservation Congress needs you!

The Conservation Congress is a citizens' advisory body to the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board. Anyone can attend and vote on delegates who will act as advisors to the DNR and NRB. These delegates represent whatever interests them and lobby for and against proposed policies, including natural resources, fish and wildlife management. Wisconsin is the ONLY state that does this.

Historically the Congress has been attended mostly by hunters and fishermen and those interests are extremely well represented as a consequence. Lately hunting and fishing policies have been expanded, including controversial policies on wolf hunting and hunting in state parks.

The Conservation Congress needs to hear from a more diverse selection of the population, especially the majority of state citizens who do not hunt and who value the natural environment. I have attended the Congress and the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the hunters, who attend in force. Balance is needed. (For the record, I am not opposed to all hunting, although I do oppose wolf hunting, among other policies. I delight in hiking our excellent state parks and I worry about the proposed expansion of hunting in the parks, which is on the agenda for this Congress.)

Here's the scoop:

Wisconsin Conservation Congress Election and Spring Hearing

When: Monday, April 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

Where: For Milwaukee County residents: Nathan Hale High School, 11601 W. Lincoln Ave. West Allis, WI

This is an annual election that takes place in EVERY county in Wisconsin. If you're not in Milwaukee county, find out where YOUR vote is at  then click on 2013 Spring Hearing Locations.

Candidates are nominated to run on the spot and the vote follows. To win a delegate must get a majority of the votes cast. Candidates sometimes win by only a few votes, so this is a case where every vote really counts! Two delegates are elected every year and there are five representing each county. The Wisconsin legislature often looks to this body to support bills relating to natural resources and sometimes the Congress begins the process that leads to creation of a new law - lets make sure it represents all Milwaukee County residents.

In addition to voting for delegates, you can vote on natural resource questions such as, #70"Should we expand hunting in Wisconsin state parks?" #68"Should we prohibit the use of dogs for hunting?". Click on the link above and then on 2013 questionnaire to read all the questions before you vote. You can also submit your own resolution to be voted on such as - "Should we end the wolf hunt in Wisconsin?" 

photo courtesy Kewl
Thanks go to Barbara Eisenberg for providing some of the information above--and for her tireless advocacy!

For more information, go to

Patricia Randolph is another passionate advocate on these issues. To read her column on the subject go to Madravenspeak.