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.
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.
Here are some of the highlights by guest contributors, in chronological order:
Protections added to Pleasant Valley Park, Milwaukee River Greenway, by David Press
Butterfly gardens in River Hills, by Peter Thornquist
New connector trail opens between Estabrook and Lincoln Parks, by David Thomas
Go jump in lake! A survey of Milwaukee area swimming beaches, by Barbara Miner
The prairie: Bristol Woods County Park, by Valerie Mann and Nick Spittlemeister
String of pearls: Milwaukee County’s South Shore Parks, by Patricia Jursik
Brew City Safari hikes the Hank Aaron State Trail at night, by Christian Alvirez, with photos by Matthew Evan Balz
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:
Nathaniel Stern, conceptual photographer:
Charles Rossiter, poet:
Andy Holman, wildlife photographer:
The single most popular post of the year by far was a September photo essay featuring butterflies: Monarch migration underway in Wauwatosa
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.
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.)
Seven parks situated along the Milwaukee River in Ozaukee County were featured in this year’s Treasures of OZ eco-tour in June.
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.
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.
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.
Although we had a disappointingly snowless winter overall, in February I managed to post a photo essay of winter activities.
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.
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.
Milwaukee’s peerless Lakefront was the place to be on Memorial Day weekend in May.
Lapham Peak was showing off its remarkably beautiful and diverse array of wildflowers in July.
Butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies at Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area were the most popular among several photo essay subjects in August.
September was another very busy month but included a most unusual story about the floating islands of Hartung Park.
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.
November saw a short-lived but stunningly beautiful early first snowfall of the season.
As the year comes to a close in Dec., a huge KK River restoration project is underway in Pulaski Park.
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.
All photos by Eddee Daniel, except as noted. Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks and curator of The Natural Realm.