Author Archives: Friends of Grant Park

Echoes from the past

Our thanks to all of the interested hikers who attended our guided nature walk with local historian Nels Monson last Sunday. It was estimated that over 50 people (a record!) tagged along to hear historical information about the Seven Bridges trail, the Grant Park tourist camp, the original swimming beach, and historic Wulff Lodge.

Suburban Soles hikers crossing the main entrance bridge. Photo by Jackie Benka.

We are grateful

The Friends of Grant Park was founded in 2005 by Don Lawson, who devoted large amounts of his spare time and resources to recruit volunteers to help with Park People’s WeedOut program in Grant Park. Over the years, FOGP gained new members and took on new responsibilities and projects. Don served as our chair until 2017. He also was a founding member of a traditional Celtic band, the Garlic Mustard Pickers, performing at all of our St. Pat’s Day parties called “Pullin’ o’ the Green”, referring to the armloads of garlic mustard removed from the park. Bobbie Groth, Don’s spouse, was also a member of the band, playing violin for the group while Don played the hammer dulcimer and recorder. The band donated their time to maximize fundraising for FOGP at the event.

For these reasons, we felt it appropriate to have a tree, planted in their honor, as a gesture of our appreciation for their selfless contributions to both Grant Park and their community. An oak tree was planted on the bluff of Lake Michigan in July of 2019, with a plaque that reads:

In Honor of Don Lawson and Bobbie Groth 
   For their commitment to Grant Park

The adjacent park bench was donated by Don Lawson.

The truth about butts…

The Friends of Grant Park have been organizing beach cleanup events for many years. Trash collected is typical for any beach popular with the public: beer and soda cans and bottles, candy wrappers, styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, butane lighters, drinking straws, occasional discarded baby diapers, shotgun wadding (OK, maybe not so typical for your average beach), and of course cigarette butts. Butts take the cake for the vast amount of them collected each and every year. Our partnership with Alliance for the Great Lakes allows us to access their data from beach cleanups taking place nationwide, and clearly cigarette butts outnumber any other form of trash. Smokers typically toss their cigarette butts anywhere and everywhere they smoke, but at a public swimming beach in a natural setting of a county park, they are litter pure and simple, and toxic litter at that.

Several of our members have had it with butts, and we are discussing ways to address this litter problem. We will follow up with more details as we develop a plan of action. As of 2017, the following Wisconsin counties have banned smoking in their parks: Brown, Columbia, and St. Croix. The village of Shorewood, and cities of Appleton, Greenfield, and Verona have also done so, including Wisconsin Dells. In the meantime, here is a short article that explains cigarette butt toxicity: https://truthinitiative.org/news/5-ways-cigarette-litter-impacts-environment

And another recent article comparing cigarette butts to plastic straws: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/experts-say-cigarette-butts-not-plastic-straws-are-largest-human-caused-pollutant/

By far, cigarette butts outnumber other forms of trash on our beach.

URO: Unfortunately Rained Out

Most of us probably assumed the rain would win out for our June 1st Burdock Busters WeedOut! And it did after three intrepid women showed up for the first assault on burdock plants in Grant Park. Armed with “parsnip predator” spades, these three warriors used their trusty spades to slice into burdock root below the soil line, made like butter with recent rains. Then the rain (lightening, too, I think) forced them to stop. Here they are prior to the rain:

Nancy, Deb and Betsy (snapping photo).

Never fear, we’ve scheduled another session for burdock on June 15th, meeting at 9 am in the bird feeder parking lot. Try out one of our fancy spades for yourself. It’s so satisfying to bring down the burdock!

Toe tapping time again: Pullin’ o’ the Green

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Yes, it’s back by popular demand! Our St. Patrick’s Day party fundraiser, Pullin’ o’ the Green, will return to the beloved Grant Park Golf Clubhouse on Saturday, March 16th from 6 to 9 pm. For the eco-conscious among you, bring your own Traveling Beer Garden glass to minimize our use of plastics.

  • Loaded Baked Potato Buffet
  • Live Music by the Garlic Mustard Pickers
  • Raffle Items
  • Beer/Wine/and Soda cash bar

$25 suggested donation at the door includes FOGP membership, Potato Buffet, and first beverage. There will be limited seating and guests who wish to attend must RSVP by going to this E-Vite link: http://evite.me/PU7w1KNFVs. We hope you can join us!

Sponsored by Friends of Grant Park. Proceeds benefit Friends of Grant Park projects.

Off-trail Foot Traffic Causes Slope Degradation: What Can We Do?

The Friends of Grant Park have identified the issue of off-trail foot traffic causing erosion as one of our top priorities to tackle in Grant Park.  We are in the process of installing new interpretive signs at the entrances to the Seven Bridges trail; they remind visitors to stay on the steps and established paths to prevent damage to the fragile sloped ecosystem in our ravines.  Some visitors choose to go “off trail”, hiking or biking, but doing so damages grasses, wildflowers and tree roots. Ultimately, slopes denuded of vegetation become rutted and eroded, as exposed soils wash down to the lower trails, then the creek, and finally Lake Michigan during rain events.  This siltation of our waterways is clearly evident over at the Mill Pond, for instance.  We can help reduce this effect by staying on the trails provided, using the stairs to access the beach, and treating the vegetated slopes with respect while visiting.

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Frequently our fundraising events highlight erosion-prevention projects such as that of 2012 where we installed compost, trees, shrubs and understory seedlings to a scoured part of our ravine slope following the washout of the main bridge to the beach in 2010’s storms.   We have “armored” volunteer trails with cut branches acquired during Buckthorn WeedOut events in the last two years, accomplishing a two-in-one task.  Matching grant moneys have made both of these projects feasible with the purchase of tools and materials needed to stabilize slopes.  As well, sometimes we need to hire professionals to undertake projects. 

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Friends of Grant Park encouraged the installation of fencing as a means of discouraging off-trail use.  It may be that this is a reasonable tactic in slopes now under siege.  And, we know that a set of stairs is necessary in proximity to one of the newer bridges.  We will take this into consideration with Parks planning.  Larger projects demand larger amounts of capital, a fact currently impossible with County budget deficits.  We encourage you to consider inquiring about long term support of our park, as well as more affordable, smaller donations. In this age of dwindling county budgets, we may lose the beauty of the ravine if we do not practice good stewardship now.

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Photos courtesy of Rebecca Wheeler

Thank you to the Garlic Mustard Pickers!

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L to R: Pam Uhrig and Debbie Wilhelm, members of the Garlic Mustard Pickers; Jody Johnson; and Jerry Connor, treasurer of the GMP.

We were very surprised at our January monthly meeting when we were given a generous donation from the Garlic Mustard Pickers.  Jerry Connor, treasurer for the band, presented Jody Johnson, consensus chair and secretary for the Friends of Grant Park, with a check for $500 “to help support the preservation of the beautiful treasure we call Grant Park.”

Three of the Garlic Mustard Pickers’ members met in 2003 while picking garlic mustard during WeedOut in Grant Park, and decided to get together to play music. A few more players were added and they have played numerous times at fundraising events sponsored by the Friends of Grant Park, and many other events in the Milwaukee area featuring traditional acoustic music from the Gaelic-Irish countries. After meeting their expenses, they donate most of their earnings to local non-profit and community groups.

The Friends of Grant Park cannot stop singing their praises!

What about coyotes?

We have received reports over the past few years of coyotes seen and heard howling at night in the area. People are concerned about the safety of their pets while outdoors in their yards, or in the park.

The WI-DNR has information about coyotes on its website, https://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/wm/wm0567.pdf and another good article was printed in the Jan./Feb. 2019 issue of All Animals from the Humane Society, https://www.humanesociety.org/news/misunderstood-coyote.

Milwaukee County has a program to monitor coyote sightings. If you observe a coyote, log on to report your sighting. This data-base helps track of populations of coyotes and helps monitor their behaviors. This is the link for Coyote Watchhttps://www.inaturalist.org/projects/milwaukee-county-coyote-watch

The best advice is to keep your pets on a short leash at all times in the park, which is the park’s rule anyway. A coyote should be no more of a threat than someone else’s dog off leash attacking your dog off leash. And it bears repeating, only one (human) fatality has ever been recorded in the U.S.

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Christmas Bird Count Dec. 16th

Wehr Nature Center, along with the Friends of Grant Park and the Friends of the Mill Pond, is hosting the 2018 Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, Dec. 16th, from 10 am – 4 pm. This census held annually by members of the Audubon Society, is the nation’s longest running community science bird project. Held in the festively decorated Golf Course Clubhouse, the Christmas Bird Count is open to the public, and participation is encouraged, however pre-registration is required. To participate, contact Wehr Nature Center at (414) 425-8550, or email: carol.howard@ces.uwex.edu

Warm soups and beverages will be available for all participants. Other activities include a photo gallery and an owl prowl at 4 pm.

To participate in the bird count along the lakeshore, contact
Betsy Abert  at betsyacorn@gmail.com.

Christmas Bird Count flyer II