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Thinking Ahead to 2022 ... and Beyond!

Written by Ken Leinbach
    Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Thinking Ahead to 2022 ...  and Beyond!

Perhaps you have seen the recent headlines?

Urban Ecology Center's $12 million expansion plan at Washington Park would save taxpayers
— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 25, 2018

Urban Ecology Center plans $12 million expansion at Washington Park site
— Milwaukee BizTimes, May 29, 2018

Yes it’s true, with emphasis on the words “offers” and “plans.”

We have aspirations to do big things in Washington Park and yes, if approved, our plans could save taxpayers upward of $1.8 million while expanding our award-winning programming. This vision could potentially grow our service base of schools within the neighborhood from 18 to 33 urban schools, expand our adult and community programs, expand our native restoration area from 8 to 20 acres and become a community icon for the neighborhood for generations to come. It’s exciting! And since it’s been in the news, we thought that you, too, should be fully informed. So, here’s a little on how this project fits into our larger vision for the future.

This news came out a little earlier than we would usually announce a project of this magnitude. Normally, we would share this after some fundraising had begun and we were ready to kick off a public campaign to support the project.

In this case, we have not yet begun fundraising. In fact, we are working on a long term lease of the land from Milwaukee County Parks on which we plan to grow our facility. In anticipation of this lease, we have spent the past year in friendly conversations with the Milwaukee County Park System to negotiate the best way for us to collaborate on this endeavor. The result of these conversations is coming up for a vote of approval by the County Board of Supervisors in July. The agenda for this meeting is public record and because it is such good news, the media picked up the story immediately. Nice to have some good news, don’t you think?

Still, as a member and friend, we want you to know that this project has a long way to go until it comes to fruition ... 2022 is the earliest we anticipate being able to open the doors to our new envisioned facility. That said, 2022 will be upon us sooner than we think and I, for one, sure can’t wait to see the light in the eyes of the neighborhood kids when it happens!

We began in Washington Park in 2007 as our first experiment in growing to a new branch in Milwaukee. We were invited into the community, but were not sure if it would take hold. It did! So much so that we were able to expand from an initial one-third of the current building to taking on the whole thing in 2012. Since then, our impact has done nothing but grow. The combination of fast program growth and an overwhelming list of facility needs has led us to determine that right now the highest and best way for us to serve Milwaukee is to first serve this important neighborhood really, really well.

Once complete ... well ... stay tuned as there is more to come!

Note: Often people ask, is there any way to help? The answer is yes! Please contact your county supervisor before July 26th and let them know, in a positive way, how important it is for the Urban Ecology Center to have a long-term lease for the land on which we will be building our new facility. Without a long term commitment, we will not be able to raise the millions of dollars needed for the project.

This expansion plan is a first major step in our larger vision to offer nature-based environmental programming to the entire city within the next few decades.

Exciting stuff!

Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach

Ken is a nationally recognized educator and leader in community-based environmental education. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center. With his contagious energy, Ken speaks on a number of topics including: urban education, community organizing, environmental issues, finding abundance, the power of story, sustainable design, the need for "near-by" nature, leadership, fundraising, and green living. Ken holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Antioch College in Ohio, a Masters degree in Environmental Education from Prescott College in Arizona and received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Milwaukee Instituted of Art and Design.

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