Riveredge Announces Artist Sally Duback for River Outpost Artwork

Original architectural rendering of The River Outpost facility at Riveredge Nature Center.

Riveredge Nature Center has selected Mequon-based artist Sally Duback to create community-based artwork for display surrounding its new River Outpost Building. Duback has spent the last 30 years creating her own artworks, as well as engaging in community art collaborations throughout the region. Some of her prior community-based artworks can be seen at Virmond Park, the Niederkorn Public Library, Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center, Messmer Elementary School, and the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Artist Sally Duback

For this project, community participants are invited to mold and paint clay artworks that relate to their experiences with the Milwaukee River and Watershed, which Duback will then fire, arrange, and incorporate into sculptural pieces to be installed permanently near the River Outpost Building. “I am so pleased to have the opportunity to create this work with the Riveredge community and to engage participants in the project as a visual conversation about the Milwaukee River watershed. Any time I am able to create a work of public art that deals with environmental issues is a win/win for me,” said Duback.

A recent collaborative community artwork by Sally Duback, on display in Virmond Park.

This opportunity takes place through a Mary L. Nohl grant awarded to Riveredge to create and display community-based artworks at its River Outpost facility, the focus of which is water-related education. The Mary L. Nohl Fund, among the largest funds created at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, invests in local arts education programs and projects.

Upcoming Public Community Art Engagement Events

Riveredge and Duback welcome people to participate in creating artworks during community events, and which can eventually be displayed along Riveredge’s Milwaukee River trails.

Currently scheduled events include the following dates and locations:

River Outpost Celebration at Riveredge | Friday, September 20

Sturgeon Fest in Milwaukee’s Lakeshore State Park | Saturday, September 28

Music in the Mushroom – A Historic Riverside Celebration at Riveredge | Saturday, October 12

Woodland Pattern Book Center | Saturday, November 9 at 2:00pm

Findings of Milwaukee Public Museum Riveredge BioBlitz

Researchers at the Riveredge BioBlitz.

24-Hour BioBlitz Uncovers Stunning Species Diversity at Riveredge

Scientists from Milwaukee Public Museum arrived on the afternoon of Friday, June 14 to spend 24 hours at Riveredge Nature Center for the 2019 BioBlitz – a quest to discover as many species as possible in 24 hours.

MPM research scientists, students, and lovers of nature visited Riveredge to forage throughout the Center’s 379 acres of various restored habitats to find as many plants and animals as possible.

Riveredge Land Manager Matt Smith discussing species with botanists Dr. Robert Freckmann and Dr. Lawrence Leitner.

Riveredge has “enormous richness”

Dr. Robert Freckmann, who began his botany career in 1959 and for whom the Herbarium at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point is named, was one of many researchers on-hand to participate in the 24-hour celebration of science. “It’s going to be interesting to see how many species we can come up with in 24 hours, but I think that’s more a function of the number of botanists and their level of energy than it is the place,” said Dr. Freckmann.

“This place has enormous richness, and all we can do [in 24 hours] is get a small sample of it,” added Freckmann.

BioBlitz at Riveredge Findings

Both MPM and Riveredge staff were pleased to document a grand total of 1,254 species within 24 hours across the Riveredge property! This total is the highest number of any of the 5 total locations surveyed since MPM started its annual BioBlitz program. A playful debate ensued about whether to include examples of the Lake Sturgeon, which Riveredge raises onsite for the Return the Sturgeon program.

BioBlitz Species Highlights

UW-Madison mycological students determining species at Riveredge.
UW-Madison students Carl Kemp and Celeste Huff determining fungi species.
  • Dr. John Zaborsky | UW-Madison – reported 536 plant species including garden plants, highlights include Small Yellow lady’s-slipper & rare Handsome Sedge.
  • Gina LaLiberte | Wisconsin DNR – found 120 species of microplants including cynobacteria, red algae, and several species of euglena in the Vernal Pond.
  • Dr. Suzanne Joneson | UW-Waukesha – found 31 species of lichens, which she surmised indicates a “happy forest.”
  • Birds 80 species seen, including Ruffed Grouse and Pileated Woodpecker.
  • Mammals – 16 species, including humans, the highlight being a Southern Flying Squirrel.
  • 343 species of insects were discovered; of which 180 were Lepidopterans (moths & butterflies).
  • Findings of 21 species of fish (22 if you count sturgeon). Highlights include Brown Trout, Iowa Darter, and Mottled Sculpin.
  • Riveredge was the first of the BioBlitz locations surveyed where invasive Jumping Worms were not found.
MPM BioBlitz at Riveredge Nature Center

Reaping Biodiversity Benefits through Long-term Conservation

“Riveredge was one of the first locations in the region to begin restoring habitats, and we have such a diversity of habitat in this immediate area – from wetlands to dry and wet prairies to creeks, marshland, forests and woodlands – and of course the mile of Milwaukee River banks for which Riveredge is named,” said Jessica Jens, Riveredge Executive Director. “I’m pleased by the number of species documented – I was hoping we’d surpass 1,200, but must admit I’m not entirely surprised by the huge number of species that were found,” said Jens.

University of Marquette students speak with a birder overlooking a restored prairie Friday evening. At that moment he’d reported 23 bird species.

“I see the passion, care, and work that goes into our 379 acres everyday and these findings are evidence of not only the work we put in every day at Riveredge, but the legacy of caretakers who came before us,” said Jens.

A Public Science Extravaganza

BioBlitz
BioBlitz participants learning about bees through one of the BioBlitz partners in attendance.

A BioBlitz is a unique occasion in that it’s a science event in which, during a portion, the public is invited to participate and learn alongside researchers. Several partner organizations throughout the region were on-hand to engage the public about populations of local plants, rodents, bees, fireflies, large mammals, and other species.

Farm Pond at Riveredge Nature Center.
A family searches for frogs at Farm Pond during the BioBlitz.

In at least one occasion, members of the public found species that researchers had not yet documented. On Saturday afternoon, a young girl presented researchers with a Painted Lady Butterfly that had yet to be discovered during the BioBlitz.

Researchers at the Vernal Pond
Researchers finding frogs and Tiger Salamander larvae at Vernal Pond.

Riveredge is a Year-round Nature Sanctuary

The BioBlitz only lasted 24 hours, but at Riveredge Nature Center, you can experience this rich tapestry of diverse plants and wildlife year-round. Our 10 miles of trails are open 7 days a week from sunup to sundown for hiking, strolling, birding, sauntering, running, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Become a member of Riveredge today and begin exploring your nature!

Prairie Flowers are Beginning to Blossom at Riveredge

Within the past week prairie plants have shot up from the soil throughout Riveredge! Many are not yet blooming, but some have begun to display flowers. These pictures were taking in the last few days, and are a few of the plants you can find flowering throughout the prairies.

This weekend Riveredge hosts the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz – a 24-hour celebration and race to find the most species in an area. Join us for free on Saturday, June 15 for the public portion of the BioBlitz from 10:00am – 3:00pm to meet MPM scientists and learn about their research. What’s a BioBlitz? Learn more here.

Daisy Fleabane at Riveredge Nature Center.

Daisy Fleabane Erigeron strigosus is blooming aplenty along the trails. This one is perfect for kids to learn to identify as it’s about perfect eye level for a three-year-old.

Red Clover at Riveredge Nature Center

Red Clover Trifolium pratense is a favorite of Bumblebees and increases soil fertility. Red Clover leaves and flowers are edible and it can even be ground into flour.

Slender Penstemon at Riveredge Nature Center

Slender Penstemon Penstemon gracilis also known as Slender Beardtongue is in the Snapdragon family. These can be seen in our Dry Prairie.

White Wild Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba is just barely beginning to show flowers. This showy legume grows tall and wide in the prairie, shaped like a bush. Despite how pretty it looks, this plant is toxic for humans and cows to eat.

Spiderwort Tradescantia occidentalis is just beginning to blossom and is immediately recognizable by the bright yellow anther against the purple backdrop. This species is named after John Tradescant the Younger (1608 – 1662), who was the head gardener for King Charles I of England.

Prairie Smoke at Riveredge Nature Center

Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum is beginning to display the reason for its name. The flower opens to display a wispy plume that blows in the the wind like a flowery smoke.

A few Sand Coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata are just beginning to bloom at our Lorrie Otto Prairie. The interesting thing about Riveredge is that sometimes the same species in different locations will bloom at slightly different times depending on sunlight, soil type, and other factors.

Virginia Waterleaf at Riveredge Nature Center

Virginia Waterleaf Hydrophyllum virginianum looks like a flower that’s straight out of a Dr. Seuss book! These fascinating flowers can be found in shadier spots along the trails.

Blue False Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

False Blue Indigo Baptisia australis is also known as Wild Blue Indigo and has many other colloquial names. It’s very similar in appearance to White Wild Indigo pictured above, but with deep blue-purple leaves, which seem presently a little farther along in blooming than the white.

Wild Four O’clock Mirabilis nyctaginea can be found beginning to bloom just outside of the backdoor the Riveredge Visitor’s Center. This plant is named for the time of day during which its flowers tend to open. This picture was taken around noon, and one could anticipate a showier flower later in the afternoon.

White Campion at Riveredge Nature Center

White Campion Silene latifolia is another that can be found close to the Visitor’s Center, and was introduced to North America in the early 1800’s. It’s flower petals tend to retract during the day.

Blue Flag Iris Iris versicolor is not a prairie plant, in fact it grows on the edges of ponds or along streams, but it’s blooming right now in its full splendor. Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow, indicating its variety of colors.

Stop by and see what you discover at Riveredge – make sure to visit for the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz on Saturday, June 15 from 10:00am!

High School Internships

We are no longer accepting applications for Summer 2019.

The Riveredge High School Internship Program offers a chance for upper high school students, who have completed at least their sophomore year in school, the opportunity to work at Riveredge Nature Center while experiencing many elements of a nature-based nonprofit organization.  Interns will become part of our summer staff team while building positive relationships with Riveredge’s year-round staff, volunteers, and families.

The values of the High School Internship Program are:

  • Mentorship: developing impactful relationships with professionals in the conservation field
  • Mastery: learning new skills that support academic and career advancement
  • Generosity: learning the power of volunteerism, philanthropy, and nonprofit work
  • Belonging: serving as part of a high functioning team that is making a difference in the world; understanding the importance of differing skills, traits, talents, and backgrounds

We are hiring two high school students to serve in these 20 hour/week, 9-week internships this summer (2019)! Work times and dates are flexible. The positions will be open until filled.

Please view the complete Riveredge High School Internship position description for more details about this opportunity and directions on how to apply!

Sugarbush House

For 50 years, maple sugarin’ has been not just a program at Riveredge, but a way of life. Perhaps nothing better exemplifies the mix of whimsy, fun, learning, and natural wonder that makes Riveredge, well, Riveredge…than the eyes of a child. Imagine a child who has just connected the maple syrup on a steaming pancake to the sap from a tree she just helped tap. This sense of wonder comes to us thanks to hundreds of people who, for five decades in early spring, have devoted themselves to making it all happen; including folks with interesting names like The Big Sap, Father Fire, Picklepuss, Sap Queen, and Maple Madman. And now this year longtime Riveredge supporters Mal, Jill, and Jamie Hepburn (Jamie being a Riveredge Kid himself), have teamed up with the Hepburn “Bootstrap” Foundation, and Ozaukee Bank’s Gift to the Future Fund to make a coordinated gift to Riveredge. A gift which will fund 100% of the cost to construct a new, but still rustic, lodge style Sugarbush House.
The Sugarbush House is being built on the vacant site of Ernie Pochert’s (aka “Father Fire”) house in “Ernie’s Woods.”  This fitting location is in the heart of Riveredge’s best Sugarbush and Ernie (who passed in 2014 and was a long time iconic maple sugaring volunteer at Riveredge), embodied all the fun and dedication that makes this “fifth season” all that it is.
 The dedication plaque will read: “This Sugarbush House is being built expressly for all the Riveredge Kids who will visit this wondrous nature sanctuary in the years to come. It is dedicated to Andy, Don, Lefty, Ernie and to hundreds of others…who worked tirelessly to reestablish the surrounding forest. And at the same time helped to build Riveredge Nature Center’s 50 year tradition of honoring the land.”
 The Sugarbush House was designed by Architect Don Stauss of Mequon and is being constructed by Sauermilch Contractors of Sheboygan.
 We thank the Hepburn family and all the many people who are making this new facility a reality. The Sugarbush House will allow the expansion of not only Riveredge’s maple sugarin’ programs enjoyed by thousands of students and community members each year, but also will be used as a year-round classroom space expanding capacity to meet the needs of Riveredge’s growing  educational programs. Construction on the Sugarbush House has already started, and we plan to have it open in time for next season’s sugarin’ celebrations!
If you are interested in being part of this or other upcoming building projects at Riveredge, please reach out to Jessica Jens, Executive Director.  We invite you be part of this exciting adventure — for without generous partners and incredible kindness such as this, Riveredge would not be here today!

The Importance of Playing Naturally

As Riveredge celebrates 50 years of connecting kids with the natural world in 2018, we want to be a continued part of spreading this movement throughout our local communities. That’s why we’re excited to be launching a new Playing Naturally Initiative, offering our assistance in creating simple and cost-effective, yet proven, nature-based play areas that bring the health and happiness benefits of time spent in the natural world to our local schools, parks. and neighborhoods. In this blog post, Phyllis McKenzie, our Playing Naturally designer, reflects on what this initiative means to her. 

It’s Saturday, and I’m feeding Glitter, an ornate box turtle, when a flash of white catches my eye, and I look up from my work. I look again and begin to chuckle gleefully, for there on the Crow’s Nest in the Natural Play Area is a young girl in a long white taffeta dress half-way up the cargo net. Then I see the boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old, in his crisp black suit, straddling the webbing right at the top of the net. Another boy, also in black, is standing atop the platform, cheering them on. I wish I had a camera.

For me, it’s a beautiful sight; it reminds me that the desire to play knows no bounds. Fancy clothes and big events can’t stop it. It is a kind of innate need, something that we all do from birth – we crawl, we climb, we explore, we challenge ourselves, we strive together, we lead, we follow, we laugh, we fall, we splash, we persevere. Playing freely was once part of most children’s lives; it is a way of learning about ourselves in the world. Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist says that time spent playing in nature allows children to learn balance, to know how far their body reaches, and build core and upper body strength. It helps them burn off excess energy allowing them to be able to sit more still and focus better in the classroom.

The Crow’s Nest is an adventure element in our Natural Play Area, an area that includes a small pond, a man-made creek, prairie plants, tamarack trees, a sand play area, a mud kitchen, and a stump walk among other things. In 2016 and 2017, Riveredge partnered with the Kettle Moraine YMCA to create two other nature-based play areas used by students in the West Bend School District 4-year old kindergarten program. As a natural playspace designer, it is fun to see kids in action in these spaces. Better yet, are the words of the teachers whose students spend time here. One of the teachers says that she and her 4K students can meet nearly all the assessment criteria of the school district in their natural playspace. Parents with students in the program are excited that the kids are encouraged to play and get muddy.

Natural playspaces exist on a spectrum from bits of grass with added logs or loose parts to truly wild landscapes like woods or prairies. Each is uniquely fitted to its surroundings giving the children a sense of place. Designed with the help of the teachers, caregivers, and children who will use them, these spaces evolve over time.

I grew up playing Pooh Sticks in irrigation ditches and lobbing cottonwood seeds at my friends. I loved to follow the animal trails down the banks toward the water and the burrows. How many times did my mother have to bring dry clothes to school because my tights were covered in red-brown clay? Where did you play as a child? Where do your children play? If you want to see more natural play areas in Wisconsin, or wherever you live, please visit the Playing Naturally page. Send me a note. Together, we can make nature-based playgrounds a reality.

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Phyllis McKenzie has been a naturalist and environmental educator for over 25 years. With a background in theatrical stage design and home construction, she is well – suited to design engaging and effective playspaces.

 

 

 

 

 

From My Riveredge Family To Yours – Thank You!

It’s because of you.

On behalf of my own Riveredge family (seen here getting fishy at Sturgeon Fest!), thank you for making 2017 Riveredge’s biggest year yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Riveredge family,

The child catching a crayfish…
The woodcock protecting its young…
The grandparent explaining the woodpecker hole…
The young sturgeon swimming free…
The student comparing prairie seeds…
The family laughing in the woods…

These moments were brought to the world this year because of you. Because of you, the world is a bit brighter, a bit healthier, and definitely a bit happier.

That’s how change happens at Riveredge Nature Center. Our family works together to make amazing things happen. Our family is made up of members, donors, schools, students, volunteers, and staff. Only together would we have the perseverance, the power, and the hope to help our world bring nature back into focus.

This past year, over 40,000 people of all ages chose nature through classes, programs, and events hosted by Riveredge – hosted by you. Hundreds of acres, 379 to be exact, of wild Wisconsin were actively preserved – cared for by you. During its 49th year, the Riveredge family grew to its largest ever – and you are part of it.

On behalf of the rest of the family, thank you for being part of our world in 2017.

Here’s to more nature and an even bigger family in 2018.

Keep Smiling & Get Outside!

 

 

Executive Director
Riveredge Nature Center

P.S. Riveredge will celebrate its 50th birthday on January 16, 2018, and the celebration will continue all year long! Please consider a tax-deductible, year-end gift to help bring a record number of people into nature during the 50th year. We can’t do it alone. We can only accomplish change together.

Andy Larsen, A Riveredge Legend, Has Passed

It is with heavy hearts we share with our membership the news that Andy Larsen, Riveredge’s first Executive Director and naturalist, passed away on Friday evening. It is no stretch to say that Riveredge, as we know it today, would not exist without the immense sacrifice, passion, and devotion of Andy and his family.

Beginning his time at Riveredge just one year after it was founded by daring dreamers from the Whitefish Bay Garden Club in 1968, everything you see at Riveredge today can be traced directly to the work of Andy and the dedicated group of volunteers he inspired and led.

From time spent walking along railroad tracks throughout southern Wisconsin in order to collect remanent prairie seed used to establish the prairies at Riveredge to pioneering the inquiry-based education style that still is used today at Riveredge to engage the curiosity of children and adult learners alike, his legacy will forever continue in every living thing on this land and in every person that comes to be awed, renewed, and inspired by those living things. Andy’s motivating drive was inspiring a deeper understanding and appreciation for our planet in those around him. He succeeded mightily; hundreds of thousands of people have developed a closer relationship to the natural world because of his life and his work.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, the staff, and the volunteers at Riveredge, our deepest sympathies and never-ending gratitude are with Andy’s wife, Judy, his children, Eric and Libby, and the rest of the Larsen family, as well as the many, many people who loved and were impacted by Andy.

Please enjoy this touching tribute to his dad that Eric Larsen posted for a look at what made him such a special person.

Andy’s obituary is now posted online.  A public celebration of life will occur on Saturday, November 18th from 1 – 5 PM at Mequon Nature Preserve.

All memorial gifts received by Riveredge for Andy will be placed in a designated fund to financially support full and partial school field trip scholarships. This will allow countless classes of children the opportunity to engage their curiosity about the natural world on the Riveredge land Andy so loved. Many of the schools most in need of this financial assistance come from urban locations, yet the funds will also be available to schools from any geographic region.

Thank you, Andy. You will be greatly missed.

Share Your Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heart of Canal Street is Potawatomi Hotel & Casino’s signature community program that raises funds for children’s charities – and Riveredge is in the running to be a beneficiary!

Heart of Canal Street has raised nearly $17 million for hundreds of area children’s charities since 1994. The program honors the Potawatomi tradition of nurturing younger generations so they grow to lead healthy, productive lives.

Half of each $3 or $7 Canal Street Bingo game purchased goes to the Heart of Canal Street fund, which totaled more than $1.1 million last year! Share your heart by playing the Canal Street Bingo game now through Dec. 14. Visit paysbig.com/heart to learn more. 

Restoring Our River’s Edge

River entrance point for river programs.

River entrance point for river programs.

Shoreline area used for sampling, pre-restoration.

Shoreline area used for sampling, pre-restoration.

Hands-on water quality education programs have been a cornerstone of the educational offerings of Riveredge Nature Center for its entire 49 year history. Each year, over 2,100 students don a pair of waders and explore the macro-invertebrate life and chemical parameters of the water in the Milwaukee River at Riveredge.   These students represent schools throughout southeastern Wisconsin and take part in partnership programs with the Urban Ecology Center (the River Connections program), Testing the Waters (regional high school science program), and Determining Water Quality classes. Although Riveredge includes over a mile and half of Milwaukee River frontage, one location is by far the most ideal, and safest, for this type of education. Due to the high use of this program area, the shoreline had become severely degraded.

Planting native vegetation along river bank.

Planting native vegetation along river bank.

With help from several funding organizations (Fund for Lake Michigan, Brookby Foundation, and Sweet Water), the River Restoration Project was conducted. The project consisted of stabilizing approximately 120 feet of Milwaukee River shoreline with rip rap, planting native vegetation in highly impacted areas, as well as the installation of a floating EZ dock to re-direct foot traffic.

In spring 2017, customized railings were added to the dock to allow safe access to the river, specifically during high water seasons and for ADA accessibility.  In addition, interpretative signage was created to educate visitors on our water programming and restoration initiative.

The shoreline stabilization, installation of the dock, and planted native vegetation will allow the shoreline to heal as well as allowing visitors the opportunity to venture out onto the River.

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Completed dock with railings!