Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kayaking the Menomonee with Milwaukee Riverkeeper

This week Milwaukee Riverkeeper hosted the second in a series of three kayaking expeditions. Each has been meant to explore one of Milwaukee's three rivers. The first, in July, headed up the Milwaukee River. This time it was the Menomonee. The third will tour the Kinnickinnic River on September 30. (For information or to register, click here.) 

Jennifer Bolger Breceda, Milwaukee Riverkeeper's new Executive Director joined us for the tour guided by Cheryl Nenn, who is the official riverkeeper. Thanks go out to the Milwaukee Kayak Company for supplying the kayaks and supporting Riverkeeper.

I went along to document the event and to provide a water's-eye view of the Menomonee Valley.  Here is my photo essay.

We put in off the Milwaukee Kayak Co. slip at 318 S. Water St., near the rustic (and rusty) railroad swivel bridge in the Milwaukee River.

It was a beautiful evening and we were passed by several cruise lines before we reached the Menomonee River.

Two of our expedition beneath the railroad bridge at the confluence of the Menomonee with the Milwaukee.

The 2nd St. Bridge follows immediately after the RR bridge.

Instead of proceeding up the Menomonee proper, we turned the corner into the Menomonee Canal and past the Harley Davidson Museum.

The Global Water Center from the water.

Paddling past the Reed Street Yards.

The newly opened Hank Aaron State Trail ramp provides access from the Sixth Street Bridge down to the Reed Street Yards segment of the trail.

Brandon is one of the Milwaukee Kayak Co. staff.

Beth is the owner of Milwaukee Kayak Co.

Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, provided a running commentary as we paddled.

Jennifer Bolger Breceda, Executive Director of Milwaukee Riverkeeper as we entered the Burnham Canal.

There are a few additional photos of the event in my Menomonee Valley flickr album.

(Full disclosure: I was formerly on the board of Milwaukee Riverkeeper.)

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.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

County Board is considering the sale of O’Donnell Park


Imagine the public outcry if Milwaukee County were to consider selling Lake Park, Washington Park, Whitnall Park, or any other park in its award-winning park system. There ought to be an outcry. Our parks should not be for sale.

And yet, the County Board is in fact considering the sale of one of its parks. As a board member of Preserve Our Parks I am forwarding the following appeal. I hope you will join me in opposing this effort. If you can’t attend the public hearing (details below) please contact your county supervisor. (If you need help scroll down for contact info and talking points.) And please forward this message to your friends!

View from O'Donnell Park
Dear friend of the parks,

Our parks are at a crossroads, and we are asking for your help. Milwaukee County is proposing to sell O’Donnell Park to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. NML is undergoing an expansion that will add some 1600 new workers to its staff, and it needs more staff parking. O’Donnell Park is located one block from NML, on the lakefront. This unusual park’s street-level plaza and pavilion sit on top of a 1300-car parking garage. This roomy garage could help alleviate NML’s parking problems.

The trouble is, NML does not want to simply rent garage space in O’Donnell Park. It wants to buy the park in its entirety—the plaza and pavilion and the garage underneath.

Please come to a county hearing on September 10 to learn more about the proposed sale and help express to Milwaukee County that our parks are not for sale. O’Donnell serves as a superb conduit between downtown and the lakefront. Its garage earns the County $2 million a year in parking revenues. Its preservation is essential—if O’Donnell can be sold, any park can be sold. And the fact is, NML has other options for providing employee parking.

We applaud NML for its commitment to downtown and for the vibrancy it brings to our city, but our parks are not for sale. Please attend the hearing to give the County this message: Keep O’Donnell under public ownership and control. Do not turn it over to private, commercial ownership. Please ask your friends and neighbors to join you at the meeting.


Wednesday, September 10, 6:30 p.m.


Free parking next door in O’Donnell Park garage.
Enter garage from Michigan St. or Lincoln Memorial Drive.


A simple email or phone call will suffice. If you don’t know your supervisor’s name follow the county board link. If you email please click ‘bcc’ and enter It is important for us to know how many supervisors are being contacted.

Tell them loud and clear: “Our parks are not for Sale.” Let’s keep O’Donnell a public park, for our use now and for handing on to future generations.

Talking Points

• O’Donnell Park has our city’s best, most inspiring, location. Let’s keep it in public hands, for our use now and as a heritage we can pass on to future generations.

• Private ownership of parks means loss of protection, not preservation.

• If O’Donnell is sold, any park can be sold.

• O’Donnell Park is an “earner.” It produces over $2,000,000 per year in net operating revenues from parking alone, which helps support all our parks.

• O’Donnell Park is built on land that has been a park since 1868. It has weathered previous fiscal crises, and will weather this one.

• Park deeds require that parks be used only for park purposes and prohibit transferring the land to private entities. The public has the right to have these deeds honored.

Gateway to museum and lakefront
To find your supervisor go to: and click on “Find Your District or Supervisor.”

Then click on the photo of the supervisor to get to contact information.

To contact Preserve Our Parks:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dramatic storm rolls over the Milwaukee County Grounds

I couldn't believe what I was seeing as I drove across the Swan Boulevard bridge yesterday. I rushed back home to retrieve my camera and got back just in time to catch this remarkable cloud rolling toward me over the west detention basin of the County Grounds.

It was moving so fast I could hardly keep up with it! Here it rolls overhead. I grabbed this shot and raced back to the car to reach the overlook at the top of the hill. It almost got away from me. The final shot is looking east over the County Grounds Park towards downtown. The US Bank building is barely visible in the distance. What you can't see from these single shots is how wide the cloud was. It stretched across the entire horizon. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

7th Annual Migration Celebration on the County Grounds a great success!

Yesterday the Friends of the Monarch Trail held their 7th Annual Migration Celebration on the Milwaukee County Grounds. The activities took place in the quadrangle of the Eschweiler buildings and around them in the butterfly habitat zone. It was a beautiful day!

Many of the usual activities took place. Butterflies were tagged and released. A long line of people took a tour of the Monarch Trail. Ceol Cairde once again provided lively Irish music.

A new addition this year was a "Moving for Monarchs" Program featuring dancer Gwynedd Vetter-Drusch. It became far more than a performance as Vetter-Drusch engaged with the large crowd, solicited interactive dance moves, and led everyone in a group dance celebrating the Monarch migration. It was lovely to see so many enthusiastic supporters dancing together. I was too enthralled myself to take photos during the group dance but here is Vetter-Drusch in butterfly costume performing later with Ceol Cairde.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friends of the Monarch Trail invite you, your family and friends to the 7th Annual Migration Celebration!

As a friend of the Monarch Trail I am passing on the following invitation. Since its inception 7 years ago this celebration has become livelier and has drawn larger crowds each year. I hope you'll join me there!

Sunday, August 24, 2014, 4-7pm
See schedule of events below.

Sunset from the Monarch Trail
This FREE, family friendly event is dedicated to preserving and protecting Monarch butterflies and the fragile ecosystem they return to each year, the precious parcel of land known as the County Grounds.

The celebration takes place outdoors, rain or shine, at the Monarch Trail on the Milwaukee County Grounds, with plenty of parking available on Discovery Pkwy. and Eschweiler Dr. off Swan Blvd.  Just look for the colorful flags and you'll find us! Please visit for a site map and more information.

photo courtesy Moving for Monarchs
This year’s event begins with a special interactive dance performance by Gwynedd Vetter-Drusch of the touring project “Moving for Monarchs,” and includes guided tours of the monarch trail, monarch release, plein air artists, lively Irish music by Ceol Cairde (Music of Friends), educational displays about Monarch butterflies, face painting, milkweed plants for sale, butterfly boutique items to benefit the Friends of the Monarch Trail and snacks too.

This is a great opportunity for artists, photographers, and videographers, especially during the Monarch release!

Schedule for the Event:
  1. 4-4:50 pm - "Moving for Monarchs" Program featuring dancer Gwynedd Vetter-Drusch
  2. 5 pm - Monarch Release
  3. 5:15-6:45 pm - Lively Irish Music by Ceol Cairde "Music of Friends"
  4. 5:30 & 6 pm - Guided Tours of the Monarch Trail
  5. 7 pm - 7th Annual Migration Celebration ends

For more information, please call Barb Agnew at 414-454-0222 or visit

(Please share this information.  We hope that everyone of all ages and all communities will be able to experience the wonder of all the creatures that inhabit the special place we care for so dearly: The County Grounds Monarch Trail.)

To see a selection of images from the County Grounds, go to my flickr set.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hank Aaron State Trail Run/Walk fundraiser in 3 Bridges Park

The Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail held its annual fundraising Run/Walk last Saturday. It was well attended, with over 1500 participants. For the first time the route included a leg through Three Bridges Park, from the bridge at 33rd Ct. west to the Valley Passage Bridge. That was the leg I covered and I offer a few samples of the photographs I caught there.

The first of the pack reaches the bridge at 33rd Ct.

Runners strung out along the Trail next to the newly built community garden plots.

Passing the 35th St. Viaduct and a field of coneflowers.

And across the Valley Passage Bridge.

To see more images from the event, go to my flickr set.
(Full disclosure: I am on the board of the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail.)

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.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Brass Light Gallery: A beacon in the Menomonee Valley

In the middle of the ground floor of the enormous Brass Light Gallery complex there is a large, mostly empty room. Its bare walls are made of pressure-cleaned cream city brick. The front of the room, which looks out on St. Paul Avenue, has been sectioned off by mirrors in ornate wooden frames. An extravagant cut crystal chandelier, along with a variety of other lighting fixtures, is reflected in the mirrors. So are the massive horizontal steel and concrete forms of the Marquette Interchange outside.
Please go to Arts Without Borders for the rest of this story and photos.

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.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Milwaukee celebrates water at Bradford Beach

Months in the making, We Are Water: Beachfront Celebration of Milwaukee's Water had its debut last night on Bradford Beach. The celebration took many forms, including recitations of poetry and spoken word, a dance performance, and a solemn spiritual ceremony led by members of a local Indian community.

As dusk grew deeper the beach was set aglow. The culminating activity was a participatory temporary art installation created and led by environmental artist Melanie Ariens. The audience was invited to take a clear plastic filled with water  illuminated with small LED lights and to place them on the beach in a prearranged pattern that represented the Great Lakes. In the gathering darkness the radiance of the lakes were joined by illuminated words provided by members of the Overpass Light Brigade.

The event was organized by Milwaukee Water Commons, a network of individuals and organizations intended "to foster connection, collaboration and broad community leadership on behalf of our waters" that was inspired by plans to make Milwaukee a “fresh water hub." (The Milwaukee Water Commons is the local chapter of a larger initiative called the Great Lakes Commons.)

There were a wide variety of participants of all ages. I didn't hear an official estimate but it looked to me like over a hundred people. When the ceremony ended with everyone gathered around the glowing Great Lakes in the darkness a local pastor gave a blessing and said, "Go in peace." No one moved; no one, it seemed, wanted the moment to end.

Here is my visual meditation on the event.

I was delighted to be in the company of many talented photographers. To see more images from the event go to the Milwaukee Water Commons Facebook page.