Wednesday, October 14, 2009

North Avenue Dam Pedestrian Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge over the remnants of the North Avenue dam linking Caesar’s Park and the west bank of the river at the dam.

Map of Location:

View North Avenue Dam Pedestrian Bridge in a larger map

East Bank Trail

On Wednesday, July 26, RRF and partners dedicated a new ADA-accessible walking trail that will allow better access to the Milwaukee River in one of the most densely populated areas of the city. The East Bank Trail is a soft pedestrian trail on the East bank of the Milwaukee River, linking Caesar's Park on the South to Riverside Park and the Urban Ecology Center on the North. It is part of a larger loop of pedestrian and paved trails called the 'Beerline Loop' that extends from Commerce Street up to Locust Street on both sides of the river and will create alternative transportation options and recreational opportunities for neighborhood residents and visitors.

"By creating this new East Bank Trail with our partners, we are protecting the environmentally sensitive wetland area along the river that people were previously accessing on an unmanaged, unauthorized path," says Kimberly Gleffe, Executive Director of River Revitalization Foundation. "Also, neighbors and visitors can now enjoy an easier and more reliable walking path that won't flood out every time it rains."

The Milwaukee River is a nationally recognized environmental jewel that River Revitalization Foundation is working to preserve and protect for future generations to enjoy. A new public art installation of two, Native American-inspired turtles constructed in concrete, tile, and steel designed by Marina Lee and Chris Leslie, two Riverwest artists, are featured at each end of the trail, commemorating the completion of the trail and recognition of donors to the trail project.

Partners in the project:
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program; Milwaukee County Parks;
City of Milwaukee; National Park Service Rivers & Trails; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; private landowners; youth from the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program; Washington High School students placed through United Water’s Internship Program; and additional crew hired through a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation

Map of Area:

View Milwaukee River Valley in a larger map



 .....Check back soon for upcoming spring events!


Beer Line Trail Loop

Milwaukee County Parks Department was awarded $320,000 from DOT federal highway funds toward a $400,000 conversion of the Beerline right-of-way to a bike trail. The River Revitalization Foundation raised the 20% matching funds as the local sponsor, or $80,000. Milwaukee County will work with RRF and local property owners to build this trail linking Gordon Park and Riverwest to Commerce Street, connecting under the North Avenue bridge. This trail will help preserve the invaluable natural area along the Milwaukee River north of North Avenue while providing links to the adjacent neighborhoods, to the newly developing residential area south of North Avenue, and to downtown.

Historical Perspective
Historically, this section of the Milwaukee River Valley was a focal point of commerce and recreation with swimming, boating and ice-skating as major uses. For the last half century, the city turned away from the river because it was severely polluted. The recent removal of the dam at North Avenue combined with water quality improvement efforts throughout the river basin, has resulted in improved water quality and changing attitudes. The river’s edge is now a desirable real estate location and its vegetated buffer is threatened with residential and commercial development as housing moves up the Milwaukee River from downtown. Building this trail will help preserve the invaluable natural area along the Milwaukee River north of North Avenue while providing links to the adjacent neighborhoods, to the newly developing residential area south of North Avenue, and to downtown.

Trail Benefits
The trail will contribute to improving the neighborhood’s overall quality of life. Neighbors will have a public open space in which to meet, chat, and enjoy the quiet. Residents will gain pleasant and safe access to downtown for commuting to work and to recreational activities; students will gain safe access to schools and parks.

Community health will improve
The proximity of the trail to the high density Riverwest Neighborhood will encourage residents to increase their physical activity; this can result in improved individual and community health as well as a reduced public health burden. Fewer people will rely on their cars, so the air will be cleaner.

The local economy will improve
Visitors from other neighborhoods and tourists are likely to visit the area as they explore downtown and Milwaukee River environs, opting to visit shops and restaurants on Center Street. Property values near the trail will likely increase as the bike path becomes a desirable public asset.

Natural and historical areas will be preserved and interpreted
The trail will contribute to the community’s overall goal of preserving the natural area buffering the Milwaukee River, an excellent area for birding and nature study. The trail will also be a good place to learn about the rich history of the Milwaukee River. We’ll creatively incorporate history and nature into trailside amenities.

Trail Basics

The proposed trail will be located on an abandoned railroad right-of-way formerly known as the “Beerline” in the City of Milwaukee. The project is bounded by Locust Street on the north, Humboldt Boulevard on the west, North Avenue on the south, and the Milwaukee River corridor on the east.

Length: 4,000’
Width: 10’
Surface Materials: asphalt

The segment of the Beerline to be converted to bike trail is situated at the crossroads between the Riverwest and UWM/North Shore suburban neighborhoods and the City of Milwaukee Downtown area. The proposed trail will facilitate non-motorized travel between those destinations by connecting with:
  • Existing City of Milwaukee bike routes on Humboldt Boulevard, Locust Street and North Avenue
  • Planned City of Milwaukee off-street paths in the railroad corridor to the northwest of the subject trail and extending into the Downtown area at the southern end of the trail
  • Milwaukee County’s Oak Leaf Trail, which is located on the east side of the Milwaukee River and connects numerous parkways and park sites.
Current Status and Links
Milwaukee County received $320,000 from federal highway funds for a $400,000 conversion of the Beerline right-of-way to a bike trail. The River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) has raised the 20% matching funds as the local sponsor, or $80,000. Milwaukee County will work with RRF and local property owners to build this trail linking Gordon Park and Riverwest to Commerce Street. The DNR awarded RRF with a Stewardship grant of $200,000 to cost share in the land acquisition along the Milwaukee River from Gordon Park to Wright Street. RRF purchased a section of the rail corridor and will transfer this land to the County Parks Department. Acquiring and preserving this nearly 5-acre property for public access and trails will also help protect the river valley. A land swap will complete the contiguous corridor needed to develop the trail.

How You Can Support this effort
Collectively these benefits create an overwhelming reason to support the Beerline Trail. To add your support, contact the Kimberely Gleffe at or 414.271.8000

Earn and Learn Program

Over the last two years, RRF has partnered to bring Washington High School interns and young workers with the City Earn & Learn program into river valley to teach them about ecological restoration. Students were mentored by RRF staff and United Water employees giving them exposure to environmental careers at their early age.

Thanks to students enrolled in the Earn & Learn program and Inland Seas School of Expeditionary Learning , the Milwaukee River valley has a different look. Many invasive species were removed and native species planted in their place. Restoration occurred along the Beerline corridor, East Bank Trail, and at our Brown Deer site.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to our summer work crews and our generous donors:
  • Helen Bader Foundation
  • Northwestern Mutual Foundation
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grant revenue is critical to our mission and directly supports the implementation of RRF's mission through:
  • Conservation – costs associated with land purchase, land protection planning as Milwaukee’s urban rivers land trust
  • Restoration – removal of harmful invasive plant species and planting of native trees and plants on our conserved properties, improving habitat and water quality
  • Education - Ecological Restoration summer crew – “Earn & Learn” program participants, River Quests and volunteer engagement
  • Public Access – trails and plans to connect communities and people to the river valley

Grants awarded to support our urban conservation, river protection efforts include:
  • The Joyce Foundation $210,000 (over three years)
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources $75,000
  • Helen Bader Foundation $20,000
  • Wisconsin Energy Corporation Foundation $10,000
  • Forest County Potawatomi Community Foundation $7,000

Recent Grant News:

Fund for Lake Michigan awards $65,000 to RRF for Restoration Planning at Granville County Dog Park
April 30, 2012--RRF was recently awarded a grant for $65,000 from the Fund for Lake Michigan to conduct initial planning, feasibility, and outreach for a streambank stabilization project at Granville county Park. Work will include coordination of stakeholder meetings, outreach to a diverse group of users, and facilitation of planning and design work for implementation of streambank restoration. While RRF is the lead on this project, key partners include Milwaukee County Parks and Residents for Off-Leash Milwaukee Parks (ROMP).

Granville County Park, nestled between W. Good Hope Rd and HWY 145, is a 26-acre off-leash dog park that runs along the upper reaches of the Menomonee River. After almost a decade of heavy traffic by dogs and their owners, the streambank is in poor condition from heavy erosion, resulting in the loss of an estimated 200 cubic yards of fine-grained sediments over the lateral distances of up to 30 feet. 

 The Fund for Lake Michigan (the Fund) was established in conjunction with the resolution in 2008 of disputes concerning the Oak Creek Power Plant and Elm Road Generating Station in southeastern Wisconsin. The agreement establishing the Fund provided for payments of four million dollars each year from 2011 through 2035 to fund projects to address, reduce and mitigate water quality impacts in Lake Michigan.  The mission of the Fund for Lake Michigan is to support efforts, and in particular those in southeastern Wisconsin, that enhance the health of Lake Michigan, its shoreline and tributary river systems for the benefit of the people, plants and animals that depend upon the system for water, recreation and commerce.

Greater Milwaukee Foundation grant improves public access to Milwaukee River corridorGrant part of nearly $310,000 awarded during second quarter competitive grantmaking
Milwaukee, WI – June 29, 2012
A $45,000 grant to the River Revitalization Foundation will help its work toward closing a critical gap that exists in a 13-mile shared use trail within the Milwaukee River greenway.
The grant supports the construction of one mile of trail along a parcel of land just north of Capitol Drive that was a former landfill. The land runs along the site of the Milwaukee Area Technical College’s solar voltaic farm. The money will fund habitat restoration, public education and support student and volunteer work crews.
“This one-mile trail is a critical link in the Milwaukee River corridor,” said Kathryn Dunn, the Foundation’s vice president of Community Investment. “Once complete, the entire 13-mile loop will be an important asset for residents throughout the greater Milwaukee area.”

RRF Offers to Purchase "Wheelhouse" Property

Funding Sought to Turn Melanec's Wheelhouse Site into Riverfront Park
by By Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel
The final mystery to be played out at the former Melanec's Wheelhouse restaurant and dinner theater on the Milwaukee River: Who will contribute to its demolition and transformation to a public park?
The River Revitalization Foundation has offered to buy the boat-shaped building and 2.8 acres - with 650 feet of frontage on the west bank of the river - for $1.4 million, foundation Executive Director Kimberly Gleffe said. The restaurant closed, and stopped hosting murder mysteries and other dinner-theater performances, in late 2005.
If the Milwaukee-based land trust can raise the money and close the deal by December, it intends to demolish the restaurant and remove two blacktop parking lots, Gleffe said.
A park there would provide public access to the west shore of the river north of downtown for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife watching, exploring and relaxing, Gleffe said.
The foundation is seeking a state stewardship fund grant that would pay up to 50% of the property's appraised value.
On Monday, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District's commission will act on a proposal to buy a conservation easement to the property at an estimated cost of $400,000. The easement would become a permanent deed restriction, prohibiting residential or commercial development.
District funds to pay for the easement would come from its Greenseams flood-management program, said Steve Jacquart, the district's intergovernmental coordinator. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission had targeted the property for protection in an environmental corridor study - a greenway connection plan - done for MMSD.
The land trust is seeking private donations to cover remaining costs of the purchase, said Christopher Jaekels, a Milwaukee attorney and chairman of the River Revitalization Foundation's board of directors. John Chowanec of Milwaukee is the current owner of the property at 2178 N. Riverboat Road.
The unnamed park would be linked to Caesar's and Riverside parks, the Urban Ecology Center and proposed Rotary Centennial Arboretum - all on the river's east shore - by an existing pedestrian bridge and the East Bank and Oak Leaf recreational trails, Gleffe said. The pedestrian bridge is located at the site of a former dam on the river.
To Read Full Article at, Click Here

Outdoor Outfitters Make Public Lands a Success

On Saturday September 26, Under the direction of RRF seventy-five volunteers planted over 120 native tress in the west section of the Milwaukee River Valley between North Avenue and Locust Street.

Wheelhouse Restoration on the West Bank of the Milwaukee

Demolition at the Wheelhouse has Begun!!!


Demolition of the Wheelhouse has finally started and, WOW, are we excited! Over the next 2 weeks you'll see the building and parking lots slowly disappear in order to get the space ready for transformation to a new park. Stay tuned for daily posts on our Facebook page! Thanks to everyone who has helped us get to this point in the project! And if you want to help RRF complete the restoration please consider a donation to help with seeding, plants, and trail work.

Day 2 of Demolition


It's amazing how little time it takes to dismantle a building. By noon yesterday the demolition crew had almost the entire building down, and you could easily visualize the greenspace that will soon replace this paved parking lot. Parking lots come out tomorrow. Stay tuned!

And then there was greenspace...

...Well, not quite greenspace yet. But it will be soon! The Wheelhouse building and parking lots are officially gone. The 2.8 acre parcel will be graded and seeded with a winter cover crop until we can get in there this spring to start restoration work. If you have a chance stop by the site and check out the new, unobstructed view of the Milwaukee River.

Southbranch Creek Restoration Project

The River Revitalization Foundation recently purchased 2.24 acres along the Southbranch Creek in the Village of Brown Deer at the intersection of Green Bay Road and Teutonia Avenue with funds from the WDNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. The site was a former homestead within a floodplain that has been neglected for more than 50 years. Wildflowers are present but are now being overwhelmed by more aggressive invasive species, such as buckthorn and garlic mustard. Yet, the site shows promise for an opportunity to restore the original plant community. Significant improvement of the sites diversity will increase the visual appeal for humans and habitat for wildlife.

Several governmental and business entities assisted with the completion of the project.
Natural Resource Technology in Pewaukee donated environmental surveying services for the acquisition, and legal guidance from Cook & Franke saved RRF thousands of dollars in legal fees. With funding assistance from the Village of Brown Deer, the Coastal Management Program and several partners including: We Energies, WDNR,Wis DOT, Milwaukee County, Mead & Hunt, Badger Meter and others, the creek and the unique 2.24 acre wooded lot at the junction of Teutonia and Green Bay Avenue was restored. In addition, Milwaukee County Parks will be extending the off-street Oak Leaf Trail through this property in 2008-09.

How You Helped:
Community members from all walks of life volunteered to hand pull garlic the mustard as well as cut the buckthorn that prevent native wildflowers from flourishing. After the invasive species were rooted out, native shrubs, trees, and wildflowers were planted. These native species increase the natural beauty of the land as well as provide a vital habitat and food source for widlife. With the help of the Village of Brown Deer and its community, we were able to restore one of the last remaining natural places in the Village of Brown Deer for future generations.

Map of Area:

View Southbranch Creek in a larger map

  Kimberly A. Gleffe
Executive Director
phone: 414.271.8000 Ext: 1

Tanya Bueter
Land Manager
office: 414.271.8000
cell: 920.918.0519

Aaron Zeleske
Milwaukee River Greenway Director
office: 414.271.8000 ext 2

Vince Bushell
Project Manager

phone: 414.588.7281

Ellie Kirkwood
Field Supervisor


Marcell McCoy
Field Crew Leader

About Milwaukee

Milwaukee, the city with the Native American name meaning "Gathering Place by the Waters," is located at the confluence of three rivers (the Milwaukee, the Menomonee, and the Kinnickinnic) which drain into Lake Michigan. The rivers come together in downtown Milwaukee to form a freshwater estuary.

Five hundred miles of streams and more than one hundred lakes form the life blood of the drainage area called the Milwaukee River Basin, which encompasses nearly 900 square miles. The drainage basin -includes 6 watersheds, 7 counties, 31 townships, 12 cities and 23 villages. It is home to more than 1.5 million people.

The area varies geographically along the River from rural, to suburban, to urban. Socio-economic characteristics also vary and can be discerned by zip code. In this focus area over 200,000 people live within one mile of the river.

Historically, the Milwaukee River Valley was a focal point of commerce and recreation with swimming, boating and ice-skating as major uses. For the last half century, the city turned away from the river. The river became a symbol of division in the neighborhoods bordering the valley. The recent removal of the dam at North Avenue – also the site of a new City pedestrian bridge, combined with water quality improvement efforts throughout the river basin has resulted in improved water quality and changing attitudes. These lands are threatened with residential and commercial development as housing moves up the Milwaukee River from downtown. Balance between the built and natural environment will ensure stainability and economic vitality for the city.


2134 N. Riverboat Rd 
Milwaukee, WI 53212

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Individual Staff:
Kimberly A. Gleffe
Executive Director
phone: 414.271.8000 Ext:1

Tanya Bueter
Land Manager
phone: 414.271.8000 Ext: 3

Aaron Zeleske
Milwaukee River Greenway Director
phone: 414.271.8000 Ext: 2

Vince Bushell
Project Manager
phone: 414.588.7281

Land Trusts are established to protect land and water resources for the public benefit. River Revitalization Foundation is serving as the urban rivers land trust in Milwaukee, caring for the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. We focus on conservation and protection of riparian corridors. This is done through land acquisition, easements, connecting green space, creating a parkway which provides public access to the river valley, and landowner education.

Ways to Protect Land Along the River:
As Milwaukee's urban land trust, here are several ways we can assist you in protecting the land along Milwaukee's rivers:

Conservation Easements
A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.

When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed.

Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements--it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land's value with the easement and its value without the easement.

Placing an easement on your property may also result in property tax savings. Perhaps most important, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land's development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.

Land Donation
Donating land for conservation purposes is truly one of the finest legacies a person can leave to future generations. It may be the best conservation strategy for you if you do not wish to pass the land on to heirs; own property you no longer use; own highly appreciated property; have substantial real estate holdings and wish to reduce estate tax burdens; or would like to be relieved of the responsibility of managing and caring for land.

Donating land releases you from the responsibility of managing the land and can provide substantial income tax deductions and estate tax benefits (while avoiding any capital gains taxes that would have resulted from selling the property). Most important, if the land is donated because of its conservation value, it will be protected. (Although our focus here is on conservation land, commercial and residential properties can also be donated to a land trust, with the understanding that the organization will sell the land to support its conservation work.)

Donating A Remainder Interest in Land
An outright donation is not the only way to give land. You can continue to live on the land by donating a remainder interest and retaining a reserved life estate. In this arrangement, you donate the property during your lifetime, but continue to live on and use the property. When you die (or sooner if you choose), the land trust gains full title and control over the property.

By donating a remainder interest, you can continue to enjoy your land and may be eligible for an income tax deduction when the gift is made. The deduction is based on the fair market value of the donated property less the expected value of the reserved life estate.

Donating Land by Will
If you want to own and control your land during your lifetime, but assure its protection after your death, you can donate it by will. You should make sure the chosen recipient is willing and able to receive the gift.

Land Donations that Establish a Life Income
If you have land you would like to protect by donating it to a land trust, but need to receive income during your lifetime, you might use a charitable gift annuity. In a charitable gift annuity, you agree to transfer certain property to a charity, and the charity agrees to make regular annuity payments to one or two beneficiaries you specify for life.

Your gift of land usually qualifies for a charitable income tax deduction at the time of the gift, based on the value of the land less the expected value of the annuity payments. Another option for donating property and receiving regular income is a charitable remainder unitrust. You place the land in a trust, first putting a conservation easement on it if it is to be protected. Then the trustee sells the land and invests the net proceeds from the sale. One or more beneficiaries you specify receive payments each year for a fixed term or for life, then the trustee turns the remaining funds in the trust over to the land trust.

The gift qualifies for a charitable income tax deduction when the land is put in the trust, based on the value of the land less the expected value of the payments. Charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder unitrusts are most useful for highly appreciated land, the sale of which would incur high capital gains tax.

Bargain Sale of Land
If you need to realize some immediate income from selling your land, yet would like the property to go to a land trust, a bargain sale might be the answer. In a bargain sale, you sell the land to a land trust for less than its fair market value. This not only makes it more affordable for the land trust, but offers several benefits to you: it provides cash, avoids some capital gains tax, and entitles you to a charitable income tax deduction based on the difference between the land's fair market value and its sale price.

Your Next Step
A land trust can help you arrive at a conservation plan that makes the most sense for you, and can put you in touch with attorneys, appraisers, accountants, and land planners familiar with conservation techniques. We also suggest that you talk with your own legal and financial advisers.

RRF is often in need of volunteers to work both in the field and the office on scheduled occasions. If you are looking to volunteer at one of our annual events such as National Public Lands Day or Earth Day please visit our Events page.

Office Volunteer Opportunities
Office volunteers support administrative activities within our office at the Milwaukee Environmental Consortium. Activities include but are not limited to mailings, data entry and website maintenance. Office Volunteer Opportunities are open to all interested parties although we have only a sporadic need for office volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator.

Field Volunteer Opportunities
Field volunteers support our habitat restoration projects by removing invasive species such as buck thorn and garlic mustard, as well as planting native trees and plants. Individuals must be able to work comfortably outside and have proper attire for hiking on dirt and gravel terrain. Work gloves and tools will be provided. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator.

Service Learning Opportunities
Currently service learning opportunities are only open to students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. If you would like to speak to us about working with RRF to satisfy your service learning hours please contact the service learning department and your appropriate university before contacting our Volunteer Coordinator. If you are a university and looking for additional service learning partners for your students please contact us!

The River Revitalization Foundation has fostered projects regarding Land Acquisition along the Milwaukee River, Beer Line Trail development, City bridge redesign over the North Avenue dam, and the East Bank Trail development from Caesar's Park to Riverside Park. Click the links below is further information about our projects that are ongoing as well as completed.

Land and Restoration Projects:
Education and Workforce Development:

Monday, October 12, 2009

West Bank Aquisition and Restoration

On May 10, 2002, RRF acquired its first property, a nearly 5-acre parcel along the west bank of the Milwaukee River. This parcel, an abandoned railroad right-of-way, connects to the south end of Gordon Park and continues to Wright Street. The WDNR awarded the Foundation with a Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant in the amount of $200,000 to cost share in this acquisition. Acquiring and preserving this property for public access and trails will help protect the river valley and create links between existing green space and County parks from Locust Street to North Avenue. Additional properties, identified in a land protection plan, will be sought to continue the greenway along the river to the Ozaukee County line.

Connect With Us

The mission of the River Revitalization Foundation is to establish a parkway for public access, walkways, recreation and education, bordering the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers; to use the rivers to revitalize surrounding neighborhoods; and to improve water quality.

The River Revitalization Foundation is a certified non-profit 501(c)(3) conservation organization