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Community Gardens in the Menomonee Valley

Written by Glenna Holstein
    Thursday, 01 May 2014
Community Gardens in the Menomonee Valley

Five years ago, the Urban Ecology Center, the Menomonee Valley Partners, and Layton Boulevard West Neighbors gathered several groups of folks who live and work near the Menomonee Valley and shared with them a crazy idea — converting an old rail yard into a park. They asked the group: “what would you like to see in this park?” They received a lot of answers, but one thing that came up again and again was a desire for space to grow food. The neighborhood just south of the Menomonee Valley is the most densely populated area in the state, which means lots of people and little space for gardening.

Based on these conversations in the nascent stages of Three Bridges Park, plans for the park included community gardens. It has taken the involvement of many partners to get the gardens ready to go, and even though the construction is almost finished, the real work is just beginning.

I think this is a fascinating project. Three Bridges Park is a pretty unorthodox choice for a location for community gardens. It’s about a quarter mile from street access and there isn’t a water source nearby. (Sounds about as crazy as most of our ideas at the Center, doesn’t it?) However, the desire to have the gardens was so strong that we decided to make them happen despite these challenges.

“Despite” is actually the wrong word. Something we are working on at the Center is to view limits as opportunities, to constantly strive toward a mind-set of abundance rather than scarcity. In a way, these gardens are a microcosm that represents some of the challenges we face as an entire society and they help us practice some of the strategies we need to meet those challenges. These gardens will require us to think creatively, to place value on community connections, and shift our perspective on how we spend our time.

So, I’d like to invite all of you into this process with us. This June, we are opening 15 Community Garden plots for our pilot year. We are excited to work together with our gardeners to figure out the best ways to make them successful. Two resources that I know to be abundant in the Urban Ecology Center community are creativity and generosity, and I look forward to seeing how we can work together to make yet another “crazy” idea come to life!

If you are interested in a garden plot or know someone in our neighborhood who might be, please get in touch at (414) 431-2940 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo credit: Alan Levine

Glenna Holstein

Glenna Holstein

Glenna grew up a mile up the river from the Riverside Park, so the Urban Ecology Center has always been important to her. Her studies and work have taken her all over the hemisphere, but her home has always been right here in Milwaukee. As Menomonee Valley Branch Manager, she is delighted to be part of the team that is working to connect a new community to the nature in their neighborhood. Her favorite things to do include hiking, exploring, cooking, singing, building forts, and trying to convince children that cockleburs are really baby porcupines!

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