By: Maddie Zopp, Director of Research and Conservation, Riveredge Nature Center
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.
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.