The Door to Heaven is Made of Nylon: UEC Community Member Shares her Camping Tales

Written by Clare Eigenbrode
    Tuesday, 13 September 2022
The Door to Heaven is Made of Nylon: UEC Community Member Shares her Camping Tales

When her son’s Boy Scouts troop announced that they’d be hosting a camping trip at the Milwaukee County Zoo in early June of this year, Riverwest resident Tanya Wiedenhoeft took some time to warm up to the idea. After all, it felt like it had taken her days to thaw out after her last camping trip a couple of decades earlier. She went with a friend from college, and “we had no gear,” she recalled. “It was so cold. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I never want to do this again.’”

But her eight-year-old son was excited, and that was enough to convince Tanya to give it another try. She’d recently signed him up for Three Harbors Council, the Boy Scouts of America council for Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha Counties, and she figured he could stick with it for as long as it kept him interested. “He needs to do more stuff so he’s not at that dang computer all the time,” she’d thought. He was hooked within a few meetings.

Once the zoo trip was a go for Tanya and her son, the only problem that remained was where to find gear that was affordable for a single trip, but would keep them both warm enough this time around. Then, Tanya remembered: “Oh, the Urban Ecology Center’s right there!”

Looking out through the door of a tent at a pine tree and lake.

Tanya’s tent, which she borrowed from the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park, faced the lagoon at the Milwaukee County Zoo during a Boy Scouts trip this June. Photo credit: Tanya Wiedenhoeft.

The Riverside Park branch of the Urban Ecology Center already had the honor of serving as a resource for Tanya and her family for years. She’d been a member since her daughter, who’s now 21, was her son’s current age. They would attend open houses and public animal feedings. “Just being there in the building itself is educational,” Tanya said.

She’d utilized her membership more recently, as well. Not long before the camping trip, Tanya had asked to borrow a pair of binoculars from Riverside Park. The next time she visited, that branch’s Neighborhood Engagement Specialist, Erin Whitney, handed Tanya a pair that had just been donated to the center by another community member. Erin told her, “These are yours to keep.” Tanya later said of Erin, “She’s so kind; it just makes everything so comfortable.”

It was Erin who got Tanya and her son set up with their equipment rental, and who ultimately helped rewrite her impression of camping. “Oh my gosh, I felt like I was in heaven,” Tanya later said about the zoo trip. “The camping gear was high-quality stuff. [My son] loved it; we had the best time.” Such a good time that she checked out gear again later in the summer, for another Three Harbors Council trip to Indian Mound Scout Reservation near Oconomowoc. 

 A child sleeping in a sleeping bag.

Tanya’s son on the camping trip at the Milwaukee County Zoo. “I felt like I was in heaven… we had the best time,” Tanya said. Photo credit: Tanya Wiedenhoeft

Tanya has lived on and near the East Side of Milwaukee since her family moved here from Panama City, Panama, where she was born and where her mother’s family is from. She attended Riverside University High School, near the Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park location, and she went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She can remember when the Urban Ecology Center was just a double-wide trailer, and before that, just a dream among some idealistic neighbors.

These days, Tanya says the center is a crucial resource for the community it serves, and urges community members to stop by, adding, “You’ll be happy you did. Don’t sleep on what’s available in your neighborhood.” She’s looking forward to getting more involved herself, especially in the winter candlelight walks at Riverside Park.

Reflecting once more on the camping trip that gave her the confidence to check out gear for a second time, Tanya said, “The Urban Ecology Center made it happen. Without the center, we would not have gone, and that’s the honest truth.” The pleasure was certainly all ours.


Email Sign-Up


* indicates required
Which Emails would you like to receive?

Connect Now

facebook instagram 2018 2 twitter linkedin

Get Involved

Hive Module