So Much Life!

Written by Ken Leinbach
    Friday, 02 September 2016
So Much Life!

Can a few words ever capture all that the Urban Ecology Center is? Take this real-life experience on the Milwaukee River, for example:

Full moon. Summer night. A beaver’s tail slapped. The river glistened in the light. Baby ducklings twittered, their silhouettes lined up behind their mother. Bats skimmed the water and two bull frogs competed with a gaa-rumph mating call.

How do you sum up all that? Or how about this memory:

Mid-day sun. Hot. Lunch on the Riverside Park tower to catch the cooling breeze. People loading boats below. Summer campers race each other to the Center from the woods. A family catches tadpoles in the pond. Shouts of accomplishment echo from the climbing wall. A bus unloads laughing students by the front door. Off in the distance moving colors dot the hills of the Arboretum as volunteers in bright T-shirts work with our stewardship team.

And that’s just at one branch! Encapsulating all that we are and do seems daunting. But if you look closely there’s one thing that weaves through the many threads of our work – life! There’s so much life here!

Girl in the front seat of a canoe, holds a paddle. Behind her are two other girls, one in the middle and one paddling in the rear seat.

At each branch of the Urban Ecology Center, an amazing amount of life has grown. We, in a robust partnership with nature, provide incredible native plant diversity to remediate Riverside Park, Washington Park and the Menomonee Valley. The plants attract a healthy array of insects, which then feed hundreds of species of birds. Amphibians are coming back. Beavers have come back. Fish not seen in these waters for nearly 100 years are coming back. And this is all happening right here in the most densely human-populated part of the entire state. It’s the perfect win-win situation where we help create the conditions for life’s abundance by strategically stewarding the land. The land then provides the perfect site for education, recreation, reflection and volunteerism.

But where do you even begin when you want to tell someone about all this life? Turns out, like in other “aha” moments we’ve had at the Center, our answer came from our community.

Girl in a swimsuit on a beach has a big smile and her arms up like she's cheering while other smiling kids run around the beach. The words So Much Life and the UEC logo are on the right on the photo.

Last spring, a communications consulting class from Marquette University closely observed the abounding natural and human life that is the Urban Ecology Center. Six teams of students studied our organization and interviewed our staff, members and friends in order to gain a deeper insight into who we are as a whole. The students did extensive research of the many parts of each of the three Urban Ecology Center branches. In addition to making formal recommendations, one team offered extra insights outside of their project scope. They made a casual observation: each branch has so much life.

So much life! The words rolled around in our heads. Short and sweet, positive, catchy, honest and to the point. That’s it! Urban Ecology Center — So Much Life!

So Much Life — be it talking about our school programs, our community programs, our restoration work, equipment lending and even our facility rental programs that keep the place hopping with happy occasions like weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like.

Look for the phrase “So Much Life” in our communications and use it with your friends. When they ask why you’re a part of the Urban Ecology Center, just say “Because there’s So Much Life!”

Want to see even more photos? Click here to see our See For Yourself post.


Photo Credit: Maddie Bird, Julie Bender
Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach is a nationally recognized science educator and leader in community-based environmental education. From a trailer in a high-crime city park, Ken has had fun facilitating the grassroots effort to create and grow the Urban Ecology Center which is the topic of his first book.

Striving to live with as little environmental impact as possible, Ken lives in the community in which he works and, not owning a car, commutes by bike, unicycle, roller blades, and occasionally even by kayak on the Milwaukee River.


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