Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Menomonee River gets its annual makeover

We weren’t there to pick up wildlife, but seeing this tiny turtle did put the day’s primary purpose in perspective. After we clean up their habitat the animals will go on living in it.

On Saturday hundreds of volunteers flocked to Milwaukee’s three rivers for the annual clean up. For nineteen years in a row Milwaukee Riverkeeper has sponsored the event, which is a combination spring-cleaning and Earth Day celebration. After our particularly brutal winter there was a lot of trash to collect.

Covering a small segment of my Menomonee Valley beat, I spent most of my time between Miller Park and 3 Bridges Park, which is also the route of the Hank Aaron State Trail. I met a lot of folks and managed to make photographs of a few of them. Let me introduce them to you. 

A large crowd gathered near the Sausage Haus at Miller Park for a brief orientation before heading for the river.

The irony was not lost on Jeff K. He chuckled as he lifted the bruised baseball he found half buried in the ground.

Nicholas and Carol work their way up the steep slope next to the stadium parking lot.

Todd H. was among a group with the Gilbane building company.

Marc S., a member of Trout Unlimited, came prepared to wade in the water. When I asked if he'd fished here in the Menomonee, he said no. But he quickly added that he planned to do so.

Larry K. crawled into the snarl of this large deadfall to retrieve some trash.

Members of Marquette University's Alpha Omega Epsilon sorority take a break to pose in the field along the Hank Aaron State Trail.

Little Lennon, with her parents, Tighe and Nicole, was the youngest river cleaner I met. She proudly brandished her grabber like a sword.

Accenture is a business technology company with offices in Chicago and Milwaukee. Here are a few of them sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the company logo. I was told that some Accenture volunteers had come all the way from Chicago to clean up the Menomonee River.

Glen and Mike, here hamming for the camera, are also members of Trout Unlimited. Mike teaches a workshop on fly fishing for the Urban Ecology Center.

They made good use of their waders, pulling up some heavy items submerged in the river.

John Paul and Bennett were the perfect size to scout for trash caught underneath the Valley Passage Bridge.

I intercepted Patrick, Braden and Julian on their way to the Urban Ecology Center to deliver this animal skull they had found.

This group from Anderson Pest Solutions is heading down the Hank Aaron Trail with their bags of trash.

At Stormwater Park I found site captains Anne and Lauryn commanding the day's haul.  Anne and Lauryn work with Menomonee Valley Partners.

Like these newborn animals we hold the earth in our very human hands. We have the power and the agency to trash the entire planet; but it is springtime and we have chosen another path today. The turtle and the snake were set free to slip away through the bent grass. They will find their home a little cleaner.

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.

Full disclosure: I am a former board member of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a current board member of the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail and Menomonee Valley Partners sponsors my Artist in Residency. I find my work as an artist and my life in the community to be integrally related; were I to tease them apart I would feel like a turtle placed in an aquarium. 


  1. Awesome piece!! Thanks, Eddee!! Love that pic of Mike and Glen from TU! Thanks also to MVP, FoHAST and WDNR for helping out at the Valley sites! It takes a village to clean up our village! :)

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