Nature is Resilient, Yet it Needs Your Help. Support Riveredge Today!

Dear Riveredge Family,

During uncertain times, nature remains a constant and reliable friend. From all of us at Riveredge, we hope this message finds you healthy and adjusting to life in this new, temporary “normal.”

We know that nature can help provide a respite from the uncertainty around us. And, right now, Riveredge, as a caregiver of nature, needs your help.

There are so many ways that these unprecedented realities are impacting, and will continue to impact, our families, communities, education systems, businesses, and the overall economy.

As many of you know, we’ve had to cancel events, programs, and field trips for the foreseeable future. As a non-profit organization, Riveredge relies on charitable donations as well as revenue from educational programs and events in order to support our mission. Without the option of hosting our beloved community events and programs as planned, the need for philanthropic support is more important now than at any time in the past decade (possibly longer).

Yet, we are working hard to ensure that community access to Riveredge’s 10 miles of trails and restorative benefits to our physical and mental health remain open and available. To do this, we need your help.

If you are financially able, we are asking you to consider a one-time gift to support Riveredge during these unprecedented times.

100% of your support will be used to continue the important, mission-driven work of Riveredge and keep the trails open. Please join us in continuing to connect families, schools, and communities to the benefits of the natural world around them. If we come together during times of uncertainty, we will come out on the other side stronger than ever before.

The Riveredge family has always been strong. From the beginning, Riveredge’s founders have been finding creative and innovative ways to bring the magic of this special place to so many people throughout the region, furthering the ripple effect, and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards. Nature is resilient and so is the Riveredge spirit!

Here at Riveredge, the maple sap has continued to flow, the spring flowers are continuing to emerge, and the birds are continuing to return from their far-away wintering grounds.

We invite your solidarity as fellow nature-lovers and caretakers of this special place.

In gratitude,

Jessica Jens,

Riveredge Executive Director

Natalie Dorrler

Riveredge Director of Development

 

 

Riveredge COVID-19 Update: Visitor’s Center Closed, Future Programs Cancelled, Trails Open

Dear Community,

Due to the increasing spread of COVID-19, directives from state and federal government, and the need for us all to work together to flatten the curve, Riveredge Nature Center’s Visitor Center, programming, events, and volunteer groups will be closed and cancelled until April 24.  As that date approaches, we will reassess to determine if operations may be reinstated.

If you need to contact a staff member, please visit our staff directory for emails and phone extensions. Voicemails will be forwarded to the staff’s email.

In these challenging times, we know that nature can help provide a respite from the uncertainty around us. Because of this, the Riveredge staff is working to ensure the continuation of our mission. We’re starting the #RiveredgeVirtualNaturalist video series, which you can view here, as well as on our Riveredge Facebook Page. Stay tuned to Riveredge’s social media accounts and email for opportunities to learn more about the natural world in your backyard, get creative outdoors with your family, and for technical help with improving your land management skills – all through the power of online communication.

The 10-miles of Riveredge trails will remain open from dawn until dusk, and we hope that you’ll come and enjoy them!  When you do, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Directions and trail maps are available on our website.
  • Printed trail maps are available at most trail heads.
  • Please follow Leave No Trace principles when hiking at Riveredge.
  • To protect the migratory and ground nesting birds, no dogs are allowed at Riveredge.
  • Trail fees are $5/person or $15/family per day for non-members.
  • Trail access is free for members. Membership begins at only $40 per household for an entire year of access.
  • Families with a 4th grade student are eligible for a free family membership.
  • Built outhouses are available just southeast of the Visitor’s Center by the yurts and noted on the trail map.  A port-a-john is also available in the west parking lot near Newburg.
  • It’s best to bring a full water bottle with you.
  • You can purchase Riveredge Maple Syrup and maple candies, Riveredge apparel, and other goodies through the Riveredge Nature Store, which are then picked up through curbside delivery. All purchases must be made online and can be picked up during our normal business hours (the Visitor’s Center will remain closed to the public). This is a great way to support Riveredge during this time!

As our friends at the Association of Nature Center Administrators shared, “…access to trails and open spaces are going to be critical to people at this time. They are havens, allowing for recreation and activity when people are discouraged from being in large crowds…

In fact, we’ve already begun hearing the croaking call of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead and the song-filled warblers won’t be far behind. Pretty soon you’ll begin to see the delicate blooms of spring ephemeral flowers along the trail, and the skunk cabbage has already begun to emerge! In this time of social distancing, we’re going to crave the health benefits offered by nature more than ever.

We know that this is a challenging time for all of us, yet by observing nature, we also know that we will overcome. We will work together and become a stronger Riveredge Family through the challenges we face today.

Keep Smiling & Get Outside,

Jessica Jens

Executive Director

Sugarin’ Day For Scouts, Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and Pancake Breakfast Canceled Due to COVID-19 Concerns

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has recommended canceling all non-essential gatherings of 250 people or more. With safety in mind, Riveredge Nature Center has canceled the March 14 Sugarin’ Day For Scouts, March 21 Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and April 4 Pancake Breakfast.

Just as with any program canceled by Riveredge, refunds will be issued to people who have pre-registered for the Scouts Day, Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and Pancake Breakfast.

At the present time, the Riveredge Visitor’s Center will remain open during regularly scheduled hours. All other Riveredge programs with smaller expected attendance are currently scheduled to take place as planned.

Riveredge trails will remain open sunup to sundown.

Our paramount concern is the health and safety of Riveredge members, volunteers, staff, and guests. Riveredge staff will continue to monitor this evolving situation and will update accordingly based on the most up-to-date information available.

 

Jessica Jens

Executive Director, Riveredge Nature Center

Managing ‘Rabbitat” – Rabbit Habitat – at Riveredge Nature Center

At Riveredge, we’re continually working to create a more robust habitat for native and migratory species. How can we best do that? Generally by making sure that we’ve planted the plants and trees that supply the sustenance and cover needed by wildlife. One species that generally doesn’t need much help is the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus). As the old adage goes, rabbits are pretty quick to procreate, and providing habitat for rabbits, or ‘rabbitat’ as the Riveredge Land Manager likes to call it, can have consequences for other plant and animal species across the property.

Ideal rabbitat is a small pile of branches and brush to hide for cover and near healthy trees and plants for rabbits to eat.

Generally, when safely cutting down a tree, the most time is spent surveying the way a tree is leans, the direction of the wind, where its heaviest branches exist, and other factors.

Rabbits have a voracious appetite, and can mow down crops of plants year-round, sometimes including uncommon species we’re working to proliferate throughout the property. As much as we might expect they wouldn’t affect trees standing tall in the forest, just a few inches from the ground rabbits can permanently injure a tree. Rabbits will nibble around the circumference of a tree, the term used for this behavior is “girdling.” Beavers are more well known for this practice, as a beaver gnawing into a tree is much more obvious. Rabbits, however, can have the same negative impact on individual trees but don’t provide the same ecosystem benefits beavers do.

In certain spaces across the property we’ll create rabbitat, while in others we’ll actively discourage it. One of the easiest ways to discourage rabbitat is to burn excess brush. Why wouldn’t we burn it in all circumstances? Some areas of the property wouldn’t respond as well to a fire, or it’s located near a habitat or location that isn’t very fire resilient. Buildings, in certain instances, for example.

Riveredge staff and volunteers work together on a prescribed burn of common brush rabbitat.

Part of our ongoing challenge is to manage and conserve these 379 acres of habitat in a way that benefits the most native and migratory species possible. Sometimes people will say, “Conserve it? What’s to conserve – it’s already a part of Riveredge!” A good parallel is to imagine a typical lawn. A person probably cuts their lawn once or twice a week in summertime. Now imagine your lawn is 379 acres of various forests, prairies, creeks, wetlands, ponds, and rising or lowering water along the river banks. That’s a lot of space to maintain and conserve. We’re continually exploring the most effective methods to provide habitat for vulnerable populations while working to thwart invasive species encroachment. Restoring and conserving the Riveredge property is indeed an ongoing project, and one in which we lovingly engage.

When taking down the trees in the above video, we left some rabbitat on the other side of our storage barn. Burning off all these branches and stumps near a 100-year-old wood barn – even surrounded by snow – wouldn’t be a smart plan. Hosting some rabbitat isn’t all bad, though. Small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels unintentionally provide sustenance for many of animals we enjoy watching in the wild, such as hawks, owls, eagles, and even foxes, coyotes, and weasels. To eradicate all rabbitat would force these charismatic raptors and mammals to go elsewhere for their prey. Additionally, these large branches have made beautiful habitat for other creatures spending time at Riveredge Nature Center…

Member Guide to Winter at Riveredge

Trail Update January 30, 2020

With Sunday night snow our trails are in fantastic shape! Come visit for an adventure with your skis or snowshoes – we also have snowshoes for rent. All Access Riveredge members are able to check out snowshoes for free! Join us for our Friday Night Candle-lit Hike.

Winter Trails

Winter provides exciting exploration opportunities, as some of the vulnerable trail areas that are otherwise off-limits to foot trafffic are able to be explored once the ground is frozen (see trail map below). We ask that anyone wearing boots or snowshoes walk on either side of identified ski trails in wintertime. Our trails are plenty wide, offering space for everyone to explore in their preferred manner. Trail conditions  are checked by Riveredge staff on a regular basis. Consult the Visitor’s Center for suggested trails and current snow conditions.

Checking out Snowshoes

At Riveredge, snowshoes are free for All Access Members to checkout for use on the Riveredge property and are able to be checked out when we have in excess of 6 inches of new fluffy snow or 4 inches of packed snow. Without sufficient snow, snowshoes will be damaged by digging into the gravel beneath the snow (plus it would probably be easier in boots anyway). Snowshoes are checked out on a first come, first served basis, and can be reserved ahead of time for events. Please affix snowshoes to your boots outside at the head of the trail; do not walk in snowshoes indoors or on brick, gravel, or wooden structures such as the back deck as this damages both the surface and the snowshoes. Snowshoes are available for checkout and must be returned before the building closes and for special events when the building is open (such as Friday Night Candle-lit Hikes).

Pop Up Hours

The Riveredge Visitor Center is generally closed on Saturdays and Sundays in winter, however if we have a decent snowfall and anticipate people having interest in checking out snowshoes, we will have weekend pop-up hours in the Visitor Center.

Winter Trail Map

Welcome to The New River Outpost!

 

The River Outpost opens Friday, September 20!

The River Outpost provides an educational and support facility near the bank of the Milwaukee River, as well as a Watershed Interactive Table to support water quality citizen science efforts, the Lake Sturgeon restoration project, and educational programs for youth and adults. The goal of this exciting, new space is to serve as a watershed education hub for the Milwaukee River through education, river interaction experiences, and restoring Lake Sturgeon to local waterways.

Vital Community Partners

Students of The Riveredge School explore along the Milwaukee River.

The River Outpost was made possible by significant generous gifts from both West Bend Mutual Insurance Company and the Fund For Lake Michigan, as well as other generous community donors. Riveredge is fortunate to partner with community partners that value watershed education and protecting our local resources, including the Milwaukee River, Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. These partners appreciate the impact of human land and water use on the ecosystems we all share.

River Outpost Celebration

To celebrate the opening of The River Outpost, Riveredge Nature Center is hosting a Community Celebration on Friday, September 20 from 4:00pm – 7:00pm, featuring a classic Wisconsin Friday Night Perch Fry (tickets for perch fry or baked cod dinners must be purchased in advance) and a live performance from Polka Fusion. Guests can explore the new facility, discover water critters in the Milwaukee River and through microscopes in the classroom, experience the watershed interactive technology table, sculpt artwork alongside the resident River Outpost artist Sally Duback, wander the Milwaukee River trails, and more. 

The River Outpost will be a hub for Milwaukee River and water quality education for all ages.

Additionally, everyone in attendance can meet the young Lake Sturgeon being raised in the Sturgeon Trailer that will be released into Lake Michigan during Sturgeon Fest on Saturday, September 28 at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee. 

The River Outpost Location

Comprising 379 acres of wild Wisconsin, Riveredge has been working to increase its educational impacts with facilities that are usable in all four seasons, while identifying building sites that won’t negatively affect habitat. The River Outpost is located in a previously disturbed building site near the Milwaukee River, providing optimum proximity for guest experience without impacting existing flora and fauna.

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