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2018 in review: A year in The Natural Realm…with pictures!

December 26, 2018  |  Topics: Spotlight


By Eddee Daniel

 

The first year of any new endeavor is, almost by definition, a momentous one. Preserve Our Parks officially launched A Wealth of Nature in June, almost halfway through the year. Still, so much has happened that it feels as if a full year has gone by since the website and companion blog, The Natural Realm, went live. As curator, I have been continually grateful for—and humbled by—the stories offered by our many guest contributors. After only six months we are well on our way toward our goal of establishing a truly community blog.

 

Tendick Nature Park, Saukville, Ozaukee County Parks

Tendick Nature Park, Saukville, Ozaukee County Parks – from “Summer Bouquet: A panoramic view of wildflowers

 

The Natural Realm has published 44 posts to date, over half of them by guest contributors. Any selection from these posts is subjective and must by necessity omit many other possible selections. If you have been following the blog (bless you) and one of your favorite posts is not listed, please accept my humble apologies. A complete list of the year’s posts available, arranged by category, can be found on our index page.

 

 

GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

 

Here are some of the highlights by guest contributors, in chronological order:

 

Protections added to Pleasant Valley Park, Milwaukee River Greenway, by David Press

 

Milwaukee River at Pleasant Valley Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

 

 

Butterfly gardens in River Hills, by Peter Thornquist

 

Milkweed in bloom

 

New connector trail opens between Estabrook and Lincoln Parks, by David Thomas

 

Volunteers working on the new trail, Lincoln Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

 

Go jump in lake! A survey of Milwaukee area swimming beaches, by Barbara Miner

 

Ottawa Lake Recreation Area, Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit

Ottawa Lake Recreation Area, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit, Wisconsin DNR

 

The prairie: Bristol Woods County Park, by Valerie Mann and Nick Spittlemeister

 

Prairie flowers at Pringle Nature Center, Bristol County Park, Kenosha County Parks

 

String of pearls: Milwaukee County’s South Shore Parks, by Patricia Jursik

 

Oak Leaf Trail in Sheridan Park, Cudahy, Milwaukee County Parks

 

Brew City Safari hikes the Hank Aaron State Trail at night, by Christian Alvirez, with photos by Matthew Evan Balz

 

Photo: Matthew Evan Balz

 

 

FEATURED ARTISTS

 

In October we began to showcase the work of creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To date we have featured four of them:

 

Mary Lee Agnew, wildlife photographer:

Photo: Mary Lee Agnew

 

Nathaniel Stern, conceptual photographer:

Photo: Nathaniel Stern

 

Charles Rossiter, poet:

Photo: Charles Rossiter

 

Andy Holman, wildlife photographer:

Photo: Andy Holman

 

MOST POPULAR

 

The Monarch Trail, Milwaukee County Grounds, Wauwatosa

 

The single most popular post of the year by far was a September photo essay featuring butterflies: Monarch migration underway in Wauwatosa

 

 

ISSUES

 

Brown Deer Park, Milwaukee County Parks, Milwaukee

Brown Deer Park, Milwaukee County Parks, Milwaukee

 

A number of issues came to the attention of Preserve Our Parks this year. Most important for the organization was the petition drive intended to support efforts to create a dedicated, sustainable funding source for Milwaukee County Parks. If you haven’t signed it already, the online petition is still open. Please do.

 

 

EVENTS

 

Of the events covered this year, four in particular stand out:

 

The second annual Urban Candlelight Hike in Three Bridges Park brought out an estimated 2,500 hearty souls on a snowy evening in February. (This and other posts from the first part of the year appeared in my previous blog, Urban Wilderness.)

 

Urban Candlelight Hike, Three Bridges Park, Milwaukee

Urban Candlelight Hike, Three Bridges Park, Milwaukee

 

Seven parks situated along the Milwaukee River in Ozaukee County were featured in this year’s Treasures of OZ eco-tour in June.

 

Bratt Woods Preserve, Grafton, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

Bratt Woods Preserve, Grafton, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

 

In September over 1,000 people descended on Lakeshore State Park to release baby sturgeons into the wild, the main event in Sturgeon Fest, which is organized annually by Riveredge Nature Center.

 

Sturgeon release, Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee

Sturgeon release, Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee

 

Likewise, in November over 1,000 people flocked to Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for its annual Xtreme Raptor Day, which features the center’s resident birds.

 

Nicco, the broadwinged hawk, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Nicco, the broadwinged hawk, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Bayside

 

 

MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS

 

Polar Bear Plunge, Bradford Beach, Milwaukee

Polar Bear Plunge, Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

 

The year began with a bang on New Year’s Day when hundreds of people braved near 0° temperatures to watch as dozens braved the frigid waters of Lake Michigan for the traditional Polar Bear Plunge.

 

Cross-country skiers at Minooka Park, Waukesha, Waukesha County Parks

Cross-country skiers at Minooka Park, Waukesha, Waukesha County Parks

 

Although we had a disappointingly snowless winter overall, in February I managed to post a photo essay of winter activities.

 

Oconomowoc River, Kettle Moraine State Forest - Loew Lake Unit

Oconomowoc River, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Loew Lake Unit, Wisconsin DNR

 

March saw me hiking a once-again snowless section of the Ice Age Trail along the Oconomowoc River in the Loew Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

 

Controlled burn at Washington Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

Controlled burn at Washington Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

 

April was a very busy month but the highlights were the two controlled burns that I was able to witness and photograph, one at Bong State Recreational Area in Kenosha County and the other in the heart of Milwaukee at Washington Park.

 

Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

 

Milwaukee’s peerless Lakefront was the place to be on Memorial Day weekend in May.

 

Great blue heron, Menomonee River Parkway, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee County Parks

Great blue heron, Menomonee River Parkway, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee County Parks

 

June saw the public launch of the new website, A Wealth of Nature, and official welcoming blog of The Natural Realm.

 

Bird's foot trefoil, Kettle Moraine State Park - Lapham Peak Unit, Wisconsin DNR

Bird’s foot trefoil, Kettle Moraine State Park – Lapham Peak Unit, Wisconsin DNR

 

Lapham Peak was showing off its remarkably beautiful and diverse array of wildflowers in July.

 

Meadowhawk dragonfly, Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area, Saukville, Wisconsn DNR

Meadowhawk dragonfly, Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area, Saukville, Wisconsn DNR

 

Butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies at Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area were the most popular among several photo essay subjects in August.

 

Installation of floating islands, Hartung Park, Milwaukee/Wauwatosa

Installation of floating islands, Hartung Park, Milwaukee/Wauwatosa

 

September was another very busy month but included a most unusual story about the floating islands of Hartung Park.

 

Grant Park Beach, South Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

Grant Park Beach, South Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

 

An issue that surfaced in October was a proposal by the Milwaukee County Board to create a work group to promote a “fair deal” for the parks. My “Open letter to the Milwaukee County Board” included a photo essay about people enjoying the parks.

 

Pedestrian bridge, Hoyt Park, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee County Parks

Pedestrian bridge, Hoyt Park, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee County Parks

 

November saw a short-lived but stunningly beautiful early first snowfall of the season.

 

River restoration by MMSD, Pulaski Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

River restoration by MMSD, Pulaski Park, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks

 

As the year comes to a close in Dec., a huge KK River restoration project is underway in Pulaski Park.

 

 

PRESENTATIONS

 

Clean Rivers, Clean Lakes Conference, Alverno College, Milwaukee

 

In closing, although the website is central to A Wealth of Nature, it isn’t the only project component. As project director, I made presentations to a variety of organizations from Port Washington to Milwaukee to Madison. Our banners were on display at a number of events, including the Clean Rivers, Clean Lakes Conference at Alverno College in April, sponsored by Sweet Water, one of our 23 project partners.

 

King's Corner Conservancy, Caledonia, Caledonia Conservancy

Approaching storm, King’s Corner Conservancy, Caledonia, Caledonia Conservancy

 

All photos by Eddee Daniel, except as noted. Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks and curator of The Natural Realm.