Thursday, September 17, 2015

Milwaukee River Revitalization- What's Up with That?

We've heard for years that Milwaukee is the reason for poor water quality in Lake Michigan all the way to Chicago.  Turns out Chicago has a few problems of its own making the rivers unsafe to use. People made jokes about how the Milwaukee rivers were too toxic to enjoy.  Yet quietly, there's been a small army of people doing some great stuff to make our urban water trails useable and beautiful. Eddee Daniel wrote a feature in Milwaukee Magazine yesterday about how Milwaukee is so much like Portland and we really could be a green destination.

Have you been out on the river lately?  I encourage you to take a hike along the river or better yet, put in a kayak or canoe and enjoy paddling while the views go by.  I found some happy people on the river near Milwaukee Centennial Arboretum this week and talked to them briefly.  A couple of cousins had taken out a kayak from the Urban Ecology Center.  You know if you join, you can use everything in their lending closets at three branches for free all year long?  It's a great way to try a variety of outdoor activities without investing too much money.  Memberships start at $35 for an individual, which also includes one guest.  It's a bit of a hike down to the river from the UEC, but they have a wheel to put under the kayaks to make it a bit easier, which you store in the kayak while you paddle.

Kayaking cousins enjoying the Milwaukee River
Milwaukee Riverkeeper has been doing testing of the Milwaukee rivers and is working towards having cleaner, even swimmable rivers one day.  They are always looking for volunteers to help restore river banks and do testing.  You can follow their activities on Facebook.

The Milwaukee rivers are part of an urban water trail. Maybe you've noticed signs along the river at county parks?  If you have your own watercraft, you can download the map at the Riverkeepers canoe & kayak guide link  which will show you where you can launch, where you'll have to do portage, and can even offer a few ideas about where to eat.

The River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) is a land trust that acquires land where it would be beneficial to make connections along the river.  While the Riverkeepers work on the water itself, the River Revitalization Foundation works on the land adjacent.  The open space next to their building used to be an abandoned restaurant which they are restoring to natural habitat for all to enjoy. This property is the connection point between the downtown Riverwalk and all the trails in the Milwaukee River Greenway.

RRF recently hosted Americorp members who did some major clean-up and planting.  You can see photos of the work on their Facebook page and follow events.  I've copied a few photos from the before/after of a trail creation- what an amazing transformation! If you enjoy working outdoors and meeting likeminded people, join one of the volunteer sessions where you'll be removing invasive species and planting prairies and river edge properties.  You can be part of a lasting legacy with your involvement.  They have open hours on Monday from 2-4, Friday 1-3, and Saturday 10-1.  They own a couple canoes and kayaks that volunteers can use for free after you volunteer 10 hours.  There's a boat launch on the river near their headquarters building.  This is the organization which helped get a beautiful pedestrian bridge built near North Avenue and worked with property owners to make the Milwaukee Centennial Arboretum a reality.  Check it out when you're up for a hike.
These guys had their own canoe and put in behind the River Revitalization Foundation building

You can see the RRF building with some work they've been doing 

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