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Joan M. Pick Preserve in autumn glory

2022 Year in Review

December 27, 2022  |  Topics: Spotlight, Stories


By Eddee Daniel

2022 was a remarkable year in The Natural Realm! It’s true that news from around the world ranged from devastating to dire. Geologists debated when but not if mankind’s impact on the planet has led to a new Anthropocene Age (or even Epoch). Delegates at the Montreal COP15 Biodiversity Conference projected that a million species will go extinct. Wildfires, hurricanes, and other “natural” disasters became more and more disastrous. And on and on. However, here in The Natural Realm we have been faring much better. (Knock on wood.)

As is traditional at this time of year, we take a look back and take stock of the events, activities and stories that have been featured in our blog. Typically, almost exactly half of the past year’s 74 posts were submitted by guest contributors, many of whom represent A Wealth of Nature project partner organizations. Atypically, two of our guests have become regular contributors with at least five stories to their credit: Virginia Small and Christel Maass.

A guided kayak outing on the Root River in Racine.
A guided kayak outing on the Root River in Racine. From Autumn Odyssey 2: Treasures of Oz and more!

In the past I have organized my review chronologically by month. In an effort to freshen things up a bit, this year I will organize by topic: Issues, Events, Places, Stories, and Featured Artists. (Note: searches of posts can be filtered using each of these topics, located on the left side of The Natural Realm page.) The review will highlight a selection of posts in each topic as opposed to an exhaustive listing.

Issues

A number of important issues have surfaced during the year, including some serious threats to our parks, public lands, and potential additions. But, here as elsewhere, the news is mostly good and the outcomes have been mostly positive.

For those of us in touch with local environmental issues, it was hard to ignore the often frustrating effort to preserve Cedar Gorge/Clay Bluffs. After spending most of the year wondering if this irreplaceable, undeveloped stretch of land along the Lake Michigan shore in Ozaukee County would be preserved … it was! And will become an Ozaukee County Park soon. Thanks in large part to A Wealth of Nature project partners, Ozaukee County Parks and Ozaukee County Land Trust.

Pond buttercups in Bubba’s Woods, a section of the Menomonee River Parkway. From “The importance of ‘wild’ in wildflowers, part 2.”

Illegal foraging in Milwaukee County parks has taken a toll, over the years, on natural areas in general and those species popular with foragers in particular. This year, after a thwarted effort to make foraging legal, protections were actually increased in an updated county ordinance. The story: Milwaukee County Strengthens Protections for Natural Areas.

Aerial view of Milwaukee's vaunted Lakefront, which is among the places protected by Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine.
Aerial view of Milwaukee’s vaunted Lakefront, which is among the places protected by Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine.

Yet another threat to public land—and water—came in the form of a state legislative action to reduce existing protections provided by Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine. All of Milwaukee’s unparalleled Lakefront is protected by the Doctrine, for example. Again, thanks to a veto by the governor, this bill did not pass—for the time being. The whole story is eloquently explained by guest contributor Virginia Small in: Ensuring Equitable Access to Wisconsin’s Waters.

Washington Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Washington Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

We published two important stories about Milwaukee’s Washington Park that addressed the issue of park maintenance. First came an alarm raise by a national organization in: Milwaukee’s Olmsted-designed Washington Park listed as “at risk” by The Cultural Landscape Foundation. That story was followed by a rebuttal of some aspects of their critique by A Wealth of Nature project partner the Urban Ecology Center, which has a branch in the park: Washington Park: The Urban Ecology Center perspective!

Here is a complete listing of the year’s issue-oriented stories.

Events

It’s always fun to feature events that happen in our parks and preserves and this year was no exception. Most come from Milwaukee County, but two occurred in Racine County for a pleasant addition. If you have an event in 2023 that you would like to appear in The Natural Realm please let me know!

A campfire within sight of downtown Milwaukee during the annual Urban Candlelight Hike in Three Bridges Park.
A campfire within sight of downtown Milwaukee during the annual Urban Candlelight Hike in Three Bridges Park.

Milwaukee County Parks and the still relatively new Parks Foundation teamed up last spring to sponsor a Healthy County Parks Challenge. From the extensive schedule of activities in a variety of parks, we covered two. The first was a brisk walk on a cold and gloomy day in Sherman Park to kick off the program that was attended by numerous public officials, including Milwaukee’s mayor and county executive: Sherman Park.

Paralympian gold medalist John Boie on his all-terrain wheelchair on a Wehr Nature Center trail.
Paralympian gold medalist John Boie on his all-terrain wheelchair on a Wehr Nature Center trail.

The second was held at Wehr Nature Center. It was also attended by public officials, but the special guest was Paralympic gold medalist John Boie, who demonstrated his skills on an all-terrain wheelchair. Additional wheelchairs were also available for the public to try out, provided by Milwaukee’s Ability Center. Wehr Nature Center.

A team of riders in King's Corner Preserve during The Mane Event.
A team of riders in King’s Corner Preserve during The Mane Event.

I made it to an event that I’ve been eager to cover for several years, appropriately called The Mane Event. It is an annual horseback riding event sponsored by Caledonia Conservancy, which establishes a twelve-mile bridal trail passing through several of its preserves. The story, accompanied by my photos, is by guest contributor Sandy DeWalt: The Mane Event: Touring Nature Preserves on Horseback!

Here is a complete listing of the year’s event-oriented stories.

Places

This is a very extensive category that overlaps with many of the others—since everything happens in a place! I’m selecting just a few of the more unusual places with intriguing stories as a small sample.

Truly a gem, I led two winter hikes for my Urban Wilderness Explorers at Badertscher Preserve in Muskego, documented in “A Hidden Gem.” I then returned for another story when a delegation from The Prairie Enthusiasts went there to assess the place and help plan for restoration: The Prairie Enthusiasts aid with restoration efforts.

Bender Park Beach.
Bender Park Beach. From “Summer Scenes from our Wealth of Nature.

Another story about a place with restoration needs but also recreational opportunities came to us from guest contributor Tom Mlada, Executive Director of Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership: Port Washington’s Valley Creek Corridor.

Even if you didn’t read our story about it, you’ve probably heard of Lizard Mound Park, which is well known for its impressive collection of historic effigy mounds. But did you know that it was just changed from a Washington County Park to a Wisconsin State Park? Much of the story comes from Chelsey Lewis, a reporter with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Lizard Mound State Park: A Place Apart.

You’ve no doubt heard of Milwaukee’s Lincoln Creek as well, but this year it was the subject of a Conservation Summit and as a follow up to that historic event I went on a personal tour, which I documented in: Lincoln Creek: A Vital Summit and a Visual Tour.

Jan Carroll and friends pick ripe apples at the McGovern Park orchard in Milwaukee.
Jan Carroll and friends pick ripe apples at the McGovern Park orchard in Milwaukee.

We had two stories about two different places that feature apple orchards. My photo essay is called: Exploring antique apples and more at Weston’s Antique Apple Orchard! And founder, Jan Carroll, brought us: An Apple Orchard is Thriving in McGovern Park!

A splash of autumn colors at Menomonee Park, Waukesha County.
A splash of autumn colors at Menomonee Park, Waukesha County.

Autumn is my favorite season and I try to take advantage of the changing colors to highlight many places with my Autumn Odyssey. This is a series of posts that actually is ongoing (and may very well carry us through the long winter). The most recent one—Autumn Odyssey 5: Size matters, except when it doesn’t!—also has links to the previous ones.

Here is the complete listing of place-oriented stories.

Stories

What’s a story? We call almost everything we post a story, as you may have noticed. Some, however, are more narrative than others, some more significant, and some simply more fun!

A triplet of owlets posing for the crowd after being banded. Location reserved.
A triplet of owlets posing for the crowd after being banded. Location reserved.

By far, the most popular story of the year was my account of Witnessing Owl Banding in the Wild! If you missed it the first time or if you just want to see it again, here you go.

Speaking of significant, this poignant account by guest contributor and author Martha Berglund rises to that level: Maquoketa: Reaching Deep into the Niagara.

Grazing goats eating invasive buckthorn at Pukaite Woods in Mequon.
Grazing goats eating invasive buckthorn at Pukaite Woods in Mequon.

As editor I like all of our stories, but I have to admit to having favorites. The grazing goats have been a favorite ever since they debuted in 2020. They have returned with a new, more authoritative account by guest contributor Christine Bohn, Stewardship Coordinator for Ozaukee Washington Land Trust: Goats Boost Effort to Restore Woods Through their Browsing Habits!

Kayaking the Fox, from "Fox River Idyll."
Kayaking the Fox, from “Fox River Idyll.”

When I was invited to accompany him on a guided tour of Scuppernong Springs by Mark Miner, I returned the favor by inviting him to write up the story. Here is his account: The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail: A Saunter through History.

In the fun category, although not without plenty of intriguing information, we have the “luxury” Bug Hotel. The story is by Catie Petralia, Communication, Volunteer and Office Coordinator for the River Revitalization Foundation, a project partner: Luxury Bug Hotel on Milwaukee Riverfront!

Panoramic view of Green Tree Basin, an island of nature in Milwaukee.
Panoramic view of Green Tree Basin, a surprising island of nature in Milwaukee.

Most of the stories listed here were by guest contributors. Of all the stories I wrote myself this year, my personal favorite is this one, in which I share my affinity with and love for Aldo Leopold: Island of Nature: Exploring a Blank Spot on the Map of Milwaukee.

Here is a complete list of all the story-based posts.

This review is getting long. And so, I will postpone the topic of Featured Artists and bring it to you in a separate post, as I’ve done in the past. Here is a sneak preview:

We at Preserve Our Parks wish you and yours a joyful New Year and our hopes for a better 2023 in the world all around us. Let’s all make the hard decisions and commitments that will begin to turn the corner on climate change.

Related post: ARTservancy Year in Review.

The featured photo at the top is from Joan M. Pick Preserve in West Bend.

Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks and editor of The Natural Realm. Many of the stories represented in this year-end review relate directly or indirectly to project partners of A Wealth of Nature.


4 thoughts on "2022 Year in Review"

  1. Sharon mahos says:

    Beautiful photos and synopsis of year 2022 looking forward to more walks with you next year

    1. E says:

      Thanks and same to you Sharon!

  2. Carolyn Wells says:

    What great photos. I especially enjoyed the ones of lizard mound, because I have been there several times since it is not too far from home. All the information is very interesting also.

  3. Mark Steinberg says:

    Great photos Eddee, reminding us of nature’s treasures in SE WI

Comments are closed.