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Come Celebrate!

Written by Beth Heller
    Monday, 26 August 2013
Come Celebrate!

It’s finally ready and YOU are invited to celebrate a beautiful new public gem: The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum opens on September 28th, 2013! The journey leading up to this event has been rich with energy, dedication, challenges and vision. Glimpses of this vision began in the early 1990s when a group of neighbors imagined what it would be like to transform Riverside Park into a safer, ecologically robust outdoor classroom. They formed Friends of Riverside Park, which later evolved into the Urban Ecology Center. New park surveys and attendance records now show that within the last year there have been over 125,000 visits from students, families, adults and neighbors to the 15 acres of Riverside Park. The arboretum adds 25 acres to the existing park. Come celebrate our new 40 acre outdoor classroom!

Paralleling this educational goal was an effort to improve the quality of the Milwaukee River, as governmental officials and community members envisioned a river with uncontaminated waters for fishing, paddling and improved public health. The North Avenue dam was removed and the shoreline that emerged became re-vegetated. As plants grew on the newly exposed soil, more people began to imagine the value of this green buffer between the urban activities and our freshwater. The River Revitalization Foundation created the East Bank Trail, connecting people to the Milwaukee River. Come celebrate the river!

MRCA Logo WpartnersAs safety and ecological interest both increased in Riverside Park, more and more visitors poured into its 15 acres. Then, an opportunity: the Rotary Club was looking ahead 4-5 years in anticipation of celebrating its 100th year. With “service above self” as a motto, the club embraced the idea of extending the vibrant areas of the very busy Riverside Park so that more children could learn, more families and adults could explore, and a more environmentally sound natural area would support more habitat and create a cleaner waterway. They provided a lead gift that leveraged an additional $8.5 million investment from the community (find a list of the many partners and supporters here) to build the arboretum. This community effort will leave a legacy for many generations to come. Come celebrate the legacy!

What I am writing now barely skims the surface the arboretum story and is intended to entice you to join the celebration. We have written many articles throughout the duration of this project: stories and opportunities to explore like the endangered oak savannah, the docent program, stories of our key partners, adaptive land management practices, its tie to restoration of the Great Lakes, research projects and more. You can read all of these, if you haven’t done so yet, at your leisure, and it will make this upcoming celebration feel even more amazing. Come celebrate the community!

As a member of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee and an employee of the Center, it is my pleasure to invite you to the party. As a Rotarian, I hope you will see the deep impact a group can make when committed to supporting a vibrant community. As an Urban Ecology Center employee, I hope that the celebration will be your first of many visits through the arboretum –all of which will inspire awe and deep appreciation for the value, magic, complexity and beauty of nature. Come celebrate nature!

Click here to learn more about The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum.

Beth Heller

Beth Heller

Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning, Beth received her Masters in Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee in 2005, where she received the Outstanding Business Plan award for a plan to launch a branch of the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park. She graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI in 1994 with a B.A. degree in Biology and Education. Beth began working at the Urban Ecology Center in 2000 to combine her love of the city with her appreciation of nature. Beth loves to sail, bike, sing and hike.

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