Arboretum Spotlight: Our Arboretum Partners

Written by Aaron Zeleske
    Monday, 13 August 2012
Arboretum Spotlight: Our Arboretum Partners

The gift of $400,000 pledged by Rotarians in 2008 to create the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum was the catalyst that brought together an impressive array of partner organizations needed to bring the project to fruition. The diverse mix and unique expertise of the partners is a testament to the broad appeal of the project, which has energized people and groups across all sectors of the community.


The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum will open on Saturday, September 28th, 2013. Each month, Aaron Zeleske, Arboretum Project Coordinator, provides an update to tell a piece of the Arboretum story.  These updates can also be found on the Rotary Club of Milwaukee website.  To view a full list of people who support this project, visit our Arbortetum page.

Urban Ecology Center: The Urban Ecology Center, the lead partner, provides year-round educational programs for tens of thousands of kids, families and adults. The Center also works to increase the quality of natural habitat in the parks in which it works, replacing invasive species with native species, creating more diverse plant and animal communities. The Center functions as the project manager for the Arboretum, playing a central role in design, implementation, and fundraising. Upon completion, the Urban Ecology Center will be responsible for continued maintenance of the Arboretum, and will utilize the Arboretum as an outdoor classroom for thousands of Milwaukee children and youth for generations to come.

River Revitalization Foundation: Founded jointly in 1991 by Milwaukee Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) works to establish public access, walkways, recreation and education along the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. As a land trust, RRF’s role in the Arboretum project is to facilitate the land transfers and provide expertise on conservation, restoration, and assist with fundraising when appropriate. RRF will own the land during construction.

Godfrey LLC: Pieter Godfrey was an architect and expert in historic preservation, in addition to being one of the driving forces behind conservation efforts along the Milwaukee River. His business sells salvaged building materials. Pieter’s donation of 4.5 acres of land and vision for an urban arboretum provided much of the impetus for the project. With his unfortunate passing in June of 2011 the project lost one of its leaders, but Pieter’s estate is committed to honoring his intentions.

Milwaukee Urban Rivers Foundation: Milwaukee Urban Rivers Foundation (MURF), set up by Pieter Godfrey, worked with RRF to facilitate the purchase of a key parcel of land for the Arboretum adjacent to Pieter’s donated parcel.

Milwaukee County Parks Department: All of the land transfers in the project will ultimately become property of Milwaukee County. The Parks Department provides assistance for the transfer of land to County ownership. Their expertise has also been important in key design elements of the Arboretum.

In addition to these formal partners, a number of other groups have also been engaged including: Environmental Protection Agency, through a large Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which has assisted with remediation of environmental contamination; City of Milwaukee, with land use expertise; and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District which has supported our green parking areas, among other things.

The project has captured the imagination of many, eliciting support from local churches, neighborhood groups, businesses, schools and universities. Nationally the project has secured over $1 million in support form both private foundations and the federal government.

Rotarians should be proud of their early catalytic investment in this project.

Aaron Zeleske

Aaron Zeleske

Aaron is the Arboretum Project Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center where he works to keep all the parts of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum project moving. His journey to try to understand the world has taken him from Wisconsin to the east coast, the Marshall Islands, Chicago, and back to Wisconsin. Two little known facts about Aaron are that he is both a twin and a potter. He enjoys bicycling, gardening, reading, and cooking delicious meals to share.


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