Eco I Do (and so do they!)

Written by MaryBeth Kressin
    Monday, 28 January 2019
Eco I Do (and so do they!)

Once upon a summer day in 2016, an Urban Ecology Center member named Marybeth (same name – but not me!) decided to borrow a canoe through our equipment lending program and go out to explore the Milwaukee River. She knew that a week from then, she was going on a first date with a close friend and wanted it to be special. After that test run she decided to have their date on the river - an intimate time together in nature.

A week later, Marybeth was sitting by the river with another canoe she had borrowed waiting for her date, Justin (same name – but my husband!). His thought for their first date: “we’re going canoeing in a city?!”

When the two think back to that day, they can’t help but remember the beauty of the river and how amazing it was to deepen their relationship in such a quiet, peaceful space. Another testament to this new relationship - they portaged the rapids and afterwards they still liked each other!

After the paddle, they used a canoe cart to return the boat to the UEC. If portaging and navigating the rapids wasn’t enough of a test, the canoe kept on falling off the cart and they used teamwork to keep it on. With the canoe and cart safely returned, they sat by the water to relax. As they left the park, walking up the hill - their hands instinctively met and warmly connected. The perfect first hand holding.

blog post canoeing

Their story continued, flourished and stayed interwoven with Riverside Park/neighborhood as well as the UEC. They found an apartment to make into a home right across the street – they wanted to be near cultural spaces they hold dear, surrounded by “people trying to do amazing things for the environment and the community.” They love the UEC and how it allows the community access to nature in the city as well as provides environmental education programs for students. They have also evolved their relationship as members by exploring the winter scape with our snowshoes, sleds and cross-country skis from the equipment lending program. During the summertime, they borrowed bikes for visiting friends, frisbees for the park, and even cultivated a garden together started with a UEC tiller.

When Justin decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Marybeth, he began to figure out where and how he was going to ask her to marry him. Wanting it to have significance to their relationship, he didn’t have to look very far and immediately thought of the park.

It was a peaceful and quiet May morning when they took a morning walk through Riverside Park along the river. Justin kept stalling, looking for the right place to propose and thought he found it as they took shelter in tree branch constructed lean-to. As he was about to propose, they heard kids from a class rambunctiously approach and they watched them pass - appreciating that the space was for anyone and everyone to enjoy.
The kids were now part of their story. “More than just our story, it’s everyone’s story” said Justin of the park and community. After the kids passed, the two sat in the lean-to and listened to the Milwaukee River and the morning sounds. His proposal continued with a mutual conversation, love and a promise on that beautiful day in the park.


Riverside Park. Photo: Phyllis Bankier

The couple’s relationship with Riverside Park and the UEC did not end there. As they began their wedding planning they thought “what reflects us as a couple?”. When venue came up, they knew right away that they wanted to celebrate at the UEC. “It was important [for us] to bring everyone [in our lives] to this intimate, special place in Milwaukee and have it reflect who we are and our story these past few years.”

Living in the neighborhood, they had seen numerous weddings across the street and they just knew I was the right spot. Come June 2019, Marybeth and Justin will carry on their story with us, promising their lives to each other in the park that watched Justin propose to Marybeth, surrounded by the trees that watched them hold hands and near the river that carried them as they learned who each other was.

Celebrate your special day with us, too!

Many couples have started their wedding and relationship story at the Urban Ecology Center. Furthermore, a natural conversation for those involved with weddings at the UEC is how to make their special day environmentally sound – a “green” wedding! This conversation continues on February 17th at Riverside Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Eco I Do – Green Wedding Expo.

Join us for a day of workshops to help show the how and why of an eco-wedding, DIY recycled craft room and over 15 vendors who will be showcasing their environmental business practices. More info can be found here:

Learn more and register for ECO I DO!

Or join the many special couples who have started their adventure with us and hosted a wedding here! We still have a few 2019 Saturdays available and 2020 dates are starting to fill up! For more info on how to have your green wedding here at the Urban Ecology Center please check out our facility rental options

Take it from Justin and Marybeth who are counting down the days till their wedding in June. They are excited for the wedding education opportunities that come with a wedding at the UEC. Most notably, they can’t wait for their guests to learn about (and maybe dance on) the lake map on the floor, climb the observation tower, read the eco-friendly reminders posted around the building, and show off their community. After all, “if someone can take away [an idea] to better their lives [during our wedding] – that’s a win!”



MaryBeth Kressin

MaryBeth Kressin

MaryBeth Kressin is the Facility Rental Coordinator for all three branches and part of the Visitor Services Team. When she is not working hard booking your party, setting up for your wedding, giving tours or helping at the front desk you can find her biking, cooking, reading in her garden or helping her husband renovate their house. She loves being outside, feels passionately about recycling and animals and is honored to be part of the Urban Ecology Center.


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