Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Urban Wilderness: The year in review

This year's stories from the urban wilderness came from near and far. Some were as close to home as the Menomonee River, which runs near my house, and some as far away as I've ever been: Australia and New Zealand. Some celebrate restoration successes and community efforts, while others reflect on controversial issues.

The first story of the year was a hold-over from 2014 when I was artist in residence in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley. Ruby and the Tree: Growing with 3 Bridges Park is a lovely metaphor for what's going right in the Valley.

The Menomonee River itself bookends the year. Early on preparations began for the Last stretch of concrete to be removed from the Menomonee River, near Wisconsin Avenue where the river passes by Piggsville. I returned to the Menomonee in December, this time upstream in Hoyt Park where a series of sewer crossings that had been damming the river were being removed: Menomonee River restoration.

In February I left town to visit a favorite haunt not too far away in Illinois: Art, Artifice and Nature at Starved Rock State Park. A very popular park that receives four million visitors a year, the two primary attractions in winter are ice climbing and eagle watching.

In March controversy erupted over a beloved patch of trees on Milwaukee's East Side: Walker targets UWM's Downer Woods. Why?  

Also in March the Mandel Group began construction on their Echelon Apartments at Innovation Park on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa. I began a series of updates showing construction progress. By the end of the year it also became clear that the battle to preserve all four of the historic Eschweiler buildings was lost. Three updates:
Construction update on County Grounds.
The Milwaukee County Grounds: A visual meditation.
Eschweilers come down as Echelons rise.

Just east of Innovation Park, still on the County Grounds, still in March, a long-awaited upgrade to the power plant serving the Regional Medical Complex got underway: Between Park and Power Plant: 10 acres in Tosa.

Across the county, on the lakefront in Cudahy, more controversy played over the better part of the year. I visited Warnimont Park in April and posted this: Milwaukee County parkland threatened by gun club’s plan for shooting range. Good judgment prevailed. By the end of the year the gun club was asked to relocate somewhere outside of the park.

A short excursion in April took me to one of Wisconsin's premier wildlife refuges: Horicon Marsh: A poetic and photographic odyssey. I caught a controlled burn in progress, along with additional shots of burned-over areas. Fascinating! Who knew a marsh would burn?

I spent a lot of time along the Kinnickinnic River this year, thanks to the MMSD. I posted two photo essays about it:
Earth Day: A community cleans up the KK.
The Kinnickinnic River and community development: A makeover

In May and June I followed Greg Septon to five nesting sites around the Milwaukee area as he banded fledgling falcons. One of my favorite stories of the year: Milwaukee's peregrine falcons get a helping hand.

The biggest controversy of the year happened over Independence day weekend. The state legislature, trying to take advantage of the distraction, tried to insert new powers to the Milwaukee County executive regarding O'Donnell Park: O'Donnell power play generates legislative fireworks.

In August I took a hike, not usually a newsworthy event. But this one began at 3:30 a.m. and introduced me to Brew City Safaris, a very worthy effort to get people out for hikes in the city: An urban hike along Milwaukee's Lakefront.

Yet more controversy stirred in September as a group calling itself Citizens Acting for Rail Safety staged a Rally on river to protest oil trains. The trains carrying explosive crude oil pass through downtown Milwaukee, crossing the Menomonee River at the point where it meets the Milwaukee River.

Also in September I finally published a story that had been years stewing in my consciousness:
Could Milwaukee be a "green" destination? I believe Milwaukee deserves to be known as a eco-friendly city, on a par with Portland, OR. I consider this to be one of the most important stories I've ever published.

In October I traveled to Australia and New Zealand. Although I hope there will be more to come (from Australia), I managed to post three stories, all about New Zealand:
Dispatch from New Zealand: Muriwai Beach.
One Tree Hill, Auckland, NZ.
Rangitoto Island: The resilience of nature.

The year ended with a bang, almost literally. On a very stormy December morning I happened to drive along Lincoln Memorial Dr. where I discovered High seas on Milwaukee's lakefront. It became a very popular post.

 Happy New Year from the Urban Wilderness!

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