Welcome Courtney Rogaczewski, the New Riveredge Director of Development

Riveredge Nature Center is pleased to welcome our new Director of Development, Courtney Rogaczewski. Courtney started with Riveredge on February 1st.

Courtney began her career in public relations/marketing with Kohl’s Department Stores. She then shifted to corporate philanthropy at Kohl’s Corporate where she oversaw the Kohl’s Cares program. From there, she wanted to be closer to the action and jumped into the nonprofit sector. Courtney then worked in development for a research foundation, then moved into the human services sector by supporting people with disabilities and working in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Her eye was always on marrying her passion for the outdoors with her working life, and we’re fortunate to have her here to blend those interests.

Courtney lives in Slinger with her husband and three sons. She enjoys continuing her 34-year hockey career, stokes her inner Star Wars fangirl, cycles competitively and enjoys hammocking with a book in her lap (read: professional napper). Their family spends all their time outside building trails, playing hockey on the lake, spending nights outside around the fire pit and preserving the woods and lake around their home. Twice annually, they load up the truck and knock two National Parks off their life list.

Welcome Courtney! Courtney can be reached at crogaczewski@riveredge.us.

We should also acknowledge that we say “Ta-ta for now” and maintain an excellent relationship with Natalie Dorrler, the outgoing Riveredge Director of Development. Natalie had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in Peninsula State Park in Door County and we wish her the best – we’re all hoping to visit soon!

Riveredge Volunteer Feature: Mark Vollmers

You may recognize Mark Vollmers for any number of reasons. Perhaps you’ve seen him acting in a movie or a commercial…otherwise you might have heard him singing with Vocal Tapestry, a group that sings folk songs from around the world. At Riveredge, you’ll most likely recognize Mark as the man behind the pancake griddle during Maple Sugarin’ Season.

Around the turn of the millennium, Mark’s wife Estelle invited him to make pancakes during maple sugarin’ field trips at Riveredge. Estelle was an environmental educator who became a volunteer Teacher Naturalist at Riveredge when she retired. After Mark retired in 2003 he began flipping even more flapjacks.

Following Estelle’s passing in 2009, Don Gilmore invited Mark to help with maintenance on Tuesdays at Riveredge, and Mark continued to pitch in more as his schedule permitted. At 20 years of volunteering, we gladly consider Mark a lifer at this point.

Thank you for choosing to spend your time with all of us at Riveredge, Mark – here’s a sap toast to another 20 years of pancake Maple Magic!

Help Tap the Sap at Riveredge!

February is giving way to March and pretty soon the sap will be flowing overnight in the 400-tree Riveredge Nature Center Sugarbush! Riveredge has a wonderful cast of volunteers who help haul buckets and bags of sap throughout maple sugarin’ season. All of it has to make its way to the Sugarbush House, where those grand clouds of steam are cooked into syrup. If you’re active and looking for an opportunity to fill your lungs with fresh forest air – join us to help collect sap!

This is an especially wonderful activity for folks who are retired or have time during the day. The schedule can depend upon nighttime and daytime temperatures – in this endeavor we’re at the whim of the weather so we’re often calling people to run in when the sap is running. A combination of temperatures below freezing at night and above freezing during the day are what makes the sap (and then us!) run. During this spring, masks will be required to be worn by volunteers.

To learn more about joining us in this wonderful outdoor exercise that turns sap into pure maple syrup, please contact Keith Hiestand at khiestand@riveredge.us or by calling (262)375-2715 x128.


Riveredge Winter Trail Conditions February 27

Snow conditions are changing daily. Unless we receive substantial snowfall, we no longer have sufficient snow to rent snowshoes.

See out our Visit Page for complete details about exploring Riveredge.

Ski and Snowshoe Map

Riveredge Nature Center and MMSD Help Protect 287-acre Saukville property with Conservation Easement

Riveredge Nature Center and MMSD Help Protect 287-acre Saukville property with Conservation Easement.

Fresh Riveredge Farm Produce for Sale!

Many people know about Riveredge Nature Center as a place to visit for a hike to see wildlife or visit for a field trip, but you may not know that we also have The Riveredge Farm: an onsite 4-acre organic permaculture farm. We sell produce in our Visitor’s Center, and you can also purchase produce for future pickup from our online store. Here is a list of our fresh offerings available for purchase right now at Riveredge.

-Starry Night Acorn Squash

-Butternut Squash

-Apple Cider

-Dehydrated Shiitake Mushrooms

-Canned Tomatoes


-Black Currant Preserves

-Red Currant Preserves

-Gold Potatoes

-Austrian Crescent Fingerlings

21+ Outdoor Dining and Drink Experiences in Autumn at Riveredge

Join Riveredge Nature Center for autumn outdoor 21+ food and drink series including Small Plates & Big Brews and Wine Walk hiking programs. Each program has limited capacity and takes place outdoors beginning or ending at the Riveredge Sugarbush House. These programs are scheduled throughout September, October, and November. These are intimate, collaborative experiences with local restaurants, producers, and purveyors in which participants are asked to wear masks in between eating and drinking.

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Small Plates & Big Brews

The Fermentorium is the main collaborator for Small Plates & Big Brews and the first event takes place with The Norbert on Thursday, September 17. Seating will take place outdoors in a manner that reinforces social distancing. Participants are asked to wear masks when not actively eating or drinking. Join us for our final event of the season on Thursday, October 29 with The Fermentorium and Heirloom MKE.

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Wine Walks

Evening Wine Walk collaborators include: Lovino Sangria, Mershon’s Cider, Vines to Cellar, and Sunshine Winery. Each walk is led by a Riveredge Naturalist Educator. Participants are asked to wear masks when not actively eating or drinking.

Here is our complete Wine Walks Schedule. Click for details and registration:

Riveredge is Seeking Homeschool Education Volunteers

For a decade, Riveredge Nature Center has hosted a premier Homeschool Program helping families add science, environmental education, and inquiry-based outdoor exploration to their home curriculum. In the current Covid-19 landscape, the Riveredge Homeschool Ed-Ventures Program is seeing unprecedented registration, and has even added an extra day of homeschool scheduling. As a result, Riveredge is seeking additional volunteers to aid in homeschool education efforts.

Homeschool volunteers help inspire young learners about the great outdoors. Every other week on either Monday,  Wednesday, or Friday, homeschool students come from all over southeast Wisconsin to Riveredge Nature Center to learn about science and the environment. Homeschool Assistants are responsible for aiding our education staff in keeping the group together while outdoors, supervising for short periods, helping students with their activities and crafts, and creating a safe, positive environment for students. Consistency is preferred, must be able to hike up to 1 mile on unpaved terrain. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shifts are available. Each shift is from 8:45am-12:15pm. Please follow this link to complete our volunteer application and receive training. As these volunteers will have direct interaction with children, a background check is required.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Volunteers are protected by a mask requirement for themselves and all guests of the program while indoors or unable to social distance 6ft apart. Additionally, Riveredge can provide clear face shields for volunteers who would like to wear them. Learning tools are wiped down between volunteers and cleaning spray is available to volunteers to re-wipe any area if guests touch surfaces. We have separate enter and exit doors to keep traffic flow going in one direction. If you have additional questions regarding our COVID-19 procedures please feel free to contact us.

For additional information, please contact Kacey Tait, Riveredge Inquiry-Based Curriculum and Instruction Manager (also copied in this email) at ktait@riveredge.us or (262)375-2715 x13.

2020 Return the Sturgeon and Sturgeon Fest Statement from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The text below was received by Riveredge Nature Center regarding the Lake Sturgeon egg collection program, Return the Sturgeon effort, and also relates directly to the Sturgeon Fest celebration. With no collection of Lake Sturgeon Eggs, we have no fish to raise onsite at Riveredge, and therefore Sturgeon Fest and the Return the Sturgeon program is on hiatus for 2020. Here is the original letter from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The Return the Sturgeon Program is a treasured part of our Riveredge efforts. We look forward to resuming this 25-year project in 2021 to bring Lake Sturgeon back to the Great lakes and the Milwaukee River!


April 22, 2020
To: Lake Sturgeon Egg Collectors
Subject: Temporary Suspension of Lake Sturgeon Egg Collections

The Bureau of Fisheries Management would like to thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to
Lake Sturgeon management. Your current and future efforts to enhance the sturgeon fishery are greatly

Due to the current COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department of Natural Resources has decided to
suspend the collection of Lake Sturgeon eggs this spring. We are currently under a State of Emergency regarding
COVID-19 and are required to limit non-essential travel outlined in Emergency Order #28 to protect the health
and safety of DNR staff and the public. We realize this decision impacts the hard work you have done and
continue to do to meet your goals of restoring lake sturgeon to their native distribution and historic abundance.
However, the Wisconsin DNR believes this decision is necessary to protect our most cherished resources: our
staff and the public we serve.

Lake Sturgeon egg collections require close contact between DNR staff, other agency staff and volunteers. In
addition, many of the spawning areas we conduct these activities at are currently closed due to the pandemic.
This is a temporary suspension of Lake Sturgeon egg collection operations. The DNR remains committed to
continuing our collaborative efforts to enhance and sustain Lake Sturgeon restoration activities throughout the
United States and plan to resume cooperative egg collections again in 2021.

We encourage everybody to stay safe during this public health emergency.

If you have any questions, please contact Todd Kalish at 608-225-5826 or todd.kalish@wisconsin.gov
Todd Kalish

Department of Natural Resources
Bureau of Fisheries Management Deputy Director
101 S. Webster St.
Madison, WI 53707

Celebrate Earth Week 2020 Every Day with Riveredge!

50 Years of a Wisconsin Legacy

Cassie Bauer

Did you know that Earth Day was established with the help of a Wisconsin State Senator, Gaylord Nelson, back in 1970? Fifty years ago his vision and commitment to conservation in the state set an example for the nation, as he encouraged peers and inspired generations to act on behalf of our planet. He was instrumental in shifting power to the people to organize grassroots efforts across the nation for the betterment of our natural world. I would have loved to meet Nelson in person, and I still glean wisdom from his words, one of his favorite quotes that I strive to live by is below.

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”- Gaylord Nelson

Happy Earth Day. Pay it forward. Commit to Conservation.


Make an Earth Week Pledge to Take Action

Rachel Feerick

Kick off this week with making a pledge of one activity, a few, or one per day in celebration for Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary! These activities can be in your neighborhood or in your home. Share a sidewalk chalk message to inspire others for Earth Day. Check out the ideas we have gathered and shared with you.  Here are a few ideas: Eat more fruits and veggies this week and learn how to compost the scraps. Plant some native seeds or trees. When it comes to cleaning- use washable rags instead of paper towels. Taking shorter showers- try to reduce by 2, 3, or even 5 minutes! Try reading more than streaming or screen time this week.


Make a pledge and plan to take action

Writing down a commitment and making a plan are two actions that increase the likelihood there will be follow through and continued action. You can write it down on on paper, make a pretty sign, and/or post photos of your plan and actions on social media. If you want these Earth Day lessons to stick with any age, try this easy activity, it can incorporate a writing prompt and art project.


Earth Day Bingo

Julie Dickson

Games are a great way to pass the time during quarantine. Continue the fun playing Earth Week BINGO with the whole family! Get to know the outdoor spaces in your neighborhood, up-cycle something from the recycling, and observe nature from your own yard or patio. You could even win a basket of Riveredge goodies! Play Earth Week BINGO with your family. Get 4 in a row or aim to black out the whole card! Get outside, learn something new, use your senses, and have fun! Please remember to practice social distancing and Leave No Trace principles while exploring outside.




Prep Your yard for Wildlife

Mary Holleback

Spring migrants are winging their way back and looking for safe places to live. Earth Day is a great time to prepare your yard for them. This is an activity the entire family can do. If you have already naturalized your yard you’re off to a good start. The native trees and flowers you’ve planted will provide wildlife with plenty of food and cover. The leaves and dead grass in your compost pile will give wildlife a lot of high quality nesting material. If you have feeders this is a good time to rake up the discarded seeds and sanitize the feeder with a diluted bleach solution. Now is also the time to remove the old nesting material from your bird houses and sanitize them as well. Orioles and hummingbirds will be back around May 1st so haul out your nectar and orange/jelly feeders but be sure to clean them thoroughly before hanging them too.

Try making your own bird bath!

Besides food and shelter, another thing that all living things need is water. If you don’t have a bird bath here’s a simple way to make one. All you need is a water-tight flower-pot tray or old flat cake pan that’s about 2 inches deep. Choose a safe place to put the bath where the ground is flat and there are shrubs (shelter) nearby. Fill the tray with water and place a few pebbles or a larger flat stone inside. The rocks will help the birds judge how deep the water is and give them confidence to get in and take a bath. Now find a good spot inside your house to enjoy watching wildlife playing the water in your new bird bath.


Include Older Adults in Your Earth Day Celebrations

Amy LB Dedow

Earth Day is celebrating its 50th year. That means that many older adults can remember when this celebration of environmental stewardship began. What are some ways that we can keep the older adults in our lives connected to stewardship during this time of social distancing? Here is a list of ten ways to connect with older adults for Earth Day.

  1. Drop off a seed starter tray and some seeds for an older neighbor or family member. They are easily available from online sources or your local garden center. Check for curbside pickup options.
  2. Stop by with a potted flower that is pollinator friendly. Leave a Bleeding Heart on the doorstep or a lovely potted Lilac bush for planting.
  3. Video chat with an older adult and take them on a garden tour of your own yard. Ask for their advice about planting and pruning.
  4. Choose a research project together, like creating a shade garden and then meet up virtually to discuss what tip and tricks you find out about.
  5. Volunteer to drop off birdseed or refill the bird feeders outside senior housing so residents can continue to watch the migrating birds.
  6. Create a family contract that states, moving forward, everyone will use reusable gift bags or recycled gift wrap to reduce the use of these unessential paper items. Purchase some gift bags and send them to your favorite older adult.
  7. Have your children make educational videos for their grandparents on subjects like plastic straws, styrofoam, and composting. This is a fabulous way to create intergenerational interactions.
  8. You or your family can create a slideshow of your favorite natural area to share with a skilled nursing facility. Add nature’s soundtrack with bird songs, frogs and other natural sounds like running river water. Check with the facility first to determine the best format to complete your slideshow.
  9. Ask the older adults in your life to write down some advice for planting, pruning and harvesting. This is the perfect time to connect and learn from our elders.
  10. Drop off or send an older adult a pair of binoculars and start a bird log. Together you could meet on the phone once a morning and catalog the birds you are seeing in your own yards. This is a great activity for older grandchildren to share with their grandparents too.


 Invasive Mustard Removal

Matt Smith

Most yards and natural areas in the Midwest now have invasive mustards such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). They are less of a threat and more a symbol of historic disturbance and imbalanced plant communities. To correct this imbalance, we encourage you to seed other species after removal. More native diversity means fewer invasive species and greater wildlife opportunity.

Native Seed Nurseries: Agrecol (http://www.agrecol.com/), Prairie Moon (https://www.prairiemoon.com/), Prairie Nursery (https://www.prairienursery.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsaWD47jr6AIVkv3jBx1zrA2BEAAYASAAEgIKtPD_BwE), Two Ferns (http://www.twofernsmadison.com/)


Support Our Pollinators

Thelma Heidel-Baker

As plants wake up in spring, so too do our pollinators as they emerge and begin the cycle of finding flowers, collecting pollen and nectar, and pollinating plants in the process. Did you know pollinators help pollinate a third of the food we eat, and we have over 300 species of native bees here in Wisconsin alone? To help our important pollinators, they need lots of different kinds of flowers, so what better way to support them by creating habitat and providing lots of blooms by your home. And bonus is, it’s beautiful!

Lots of small steps can be done right now around your home and yard to help support our pollinators. Pick one (or several) of the following actions to help create a pollinator haven in your own backyard:


* Leave the dandelions. We know it’s hard, but welcome the weeds in your yard in early spring, especially dandelions. These early-blooming yellow flowers are some of the first food sources available to native bees.

* Plant some native wildflowers around your home. Not only are they beautiful, but native plants provide the best quality flowers for many of our native pollinators, and there are many to choose from. For a list of some of the best pollinator-friendly plants, check out:

Want a recap? Here are simple steps to help pollinators from the Wisconsin DNR: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/documents/pollinatorSF.pdf


Neighborhood Trash Clean Up

Patricia Gerber

Spring is officially here and that means our winter litter is too! The litter we are now finding in our streets, yards, parks, and other public places is being washed into our streams and rivers with each spring rain. To help slow the spread of pollution, take some time today to go help clean up your neighborhood and our environment. Not only does cleaning up your neighborhood make it a safer and cleaner place for you and your neighbors, but by each of us working together, it makes a difference for our community as a whole.

Grab a bag or a bucket and some safe gloves to help pick up trash. Please make sure to maintain social distancing around others, wash your hands often, be safe and have fun!

After your neighborhood clean up mission is complete, tally the trash you collect and share a picture of your clean up efforts! Post a picture of your most interesting trash or the biggest piece you found with Riveredge Nature Center on Social Media with the hashtag #SharewithRiveredge.

Trash Tally Sheet (4th grade- Adults)

Trash Scavenger Hunt sheet (younger children)


Seed Starting at Home

Todd Kraemer-Curtiss

As winter is put to rest, plant life is itching to begin! A great way to kick off the growing season is to seed start. Seed starting puts you ahead of the game for when the weather is warm enough for young plant life to flourish. It’s easy, fun, and a wonderful activity to get people excited about food, flowers, and a more beautiful home. Ready to get started? Here’s what you need:

  • You can use a multitude of containers to start seeds. Options include clean plastic containers, cardboard egg cartons, plant pots, and even toilet paper rolls. Be sure that all of your chosen containers have a form of drainage in them. You can alter containers with scissors to make holes and slits to provide an access route for excess water to leak out of.
  • In a separate container, mix your soil with water just enough so that when you squeeze it, no water runs out of your soil, but it is clearly damp. Fill your containers with your mixed soil and pack it down so that the seed will have good contact and a healthy balance of air and water.
  • Proceed to make a divot on your packed down soil to make a resting place for your seed. Depending on when the seed was bought, it is a safe bet to place more than one seed in each resting place so as to insure that at least one will germinate. Cover your seed(s) with soil and pack them down.
  • Water your planted seeds gently so as to not upset the soil resulting in the seeds uncovering.
  • Place in a sunny spot and keep an eye on your plants. Water them every couple days to once a week and watch as they grow bigger!
  • Once they are ready and the weather is warm enough, plant your little sprout friends in your garden space. It is a very fulfilling activity that is perfect for all ages. Enjoy!