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Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum

As evidenced by the photos below, the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum Grand Opening Celebration was a smashing success! A heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who were able to attend!

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For monthly updates on the Rotary Centennial Arboretum, visit our blog, or by clicking on the selected topics below:

The Urban Ecology Center, in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee County Parks, private businesses and local landowners, is restoring 40 acres of land along the Milwaukee River as an arboretum of native species and improved wildlife habitat. (To read more about what an arboretum is, check out this blog post by Ken Leinbach). With the creation of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum, we are developing a biologically diverse urban habitat and a space for growing future environmental stewards.

Before and after images of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum

The 40-acre Arboretum includes 6 acres of formerly industrial land undergoing a dramatic transformation into an Oak Savannah.  The flats along the Milwaukee River are being smothered with black fabric to eliminate invasive reed canary grass and planted with a mix of riparian plants.  Planting is also taking place in Riverside Park. 

The Arboretum will be planted with over 2,200 trees representing 72 species native to this area and over 70,000 of shrubs and herbaceous plants.  This ecological restoration and the resulting diverse plant communities offer greater opportunities to learn about native species and provide better habitat for native wildlife.

Left: Construction work began in the fall of 2012 on the new Oak Savannah.
Middle: An old factory building was demolished on land that is now part of the Arboretum.
Right: In the summer of 2013, the major construction work is being finished and plants are starting to grow in the Oak Savannah.

Where is the Arboretum located?A map of the Arboretum project: 40 acres of land that includes Riverside Park and donated land spanning from bluff to bank along the Milwaukee River and along the Oak Leaf Trail from Locust St. to North Ave.

The Arboretum is situated between the Milwaukee River and the Oak Leaf Trail and stretches from North Avenue to Locust Street. The Arboretum’s location at the southern end of the Milwaukee River Greenway (the 800-acre green space that has been developed to provide and enhance public access to the Milwaukee River) makes the Arboretum a natural gateway to this valuable resource.

What are the benefits of an Arboretum?

The Arboretum provides many benefits to the community as it increases community access to the Milwaukee River with a path accessible to those with limited mobility and families with strollers.  The Arboretum expands the outdoor classroom used by Urban Ecology Center educators and has been dedicated as a Children’s Forest by the USDA Forest Service, which is specifically focused on connecting kids and families with nature.  Of the twenty two designated Children's Forests in the country, the Arboretum is one the only ones located within a major urban area.

The Arboretum increases opportunities for ecological research in a unique urban environment and the diversity of native species provides a source of seed stock for the region. Replacing invasive species with deep-rooted native species improves water quality and reduces storm water runoff.

Who is involved?

The Arboretum project would not be possible without the tremendous support of many groups and individuals, including:

  • Rotary Club of Milwaukee
  • Pieter Godfrey, a visionary and dearly missed friend and nearby land owner
  • Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
  • The River Revitalization Foundation
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • Milwaukee County Parks
  • USDA Forest Service
  • City of Milwaukee
  • Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition
  • Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Milwaukee Area Workforce Youth Initiative
  • Fund for Lake Michigan Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Local community members

Visit our partners at the Milwaukee Rotary to learn more about this exciting project!

Here's how you can get involved!

Come volunteer!

We offer the following weekly volunteer opportunities:

Sponsor a native tree or plant!

By sponsoring a tree or plant through our Deep Roots: Native Tree and Plant Sponsorship Program, you will help us transform post-industrial land into a flourishing native ecosystem, create the first universally accessible nature trail to the Milwaukee River and ensure that people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities will be able to enjoy the Arboretum.



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Early Morning Birdwalks (Riverside Park)

Riverside Park

Thursday, August 21st

8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

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Riverside Park closing at 5pm

Riverside Park

Thursday, August 21st

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

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