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Seven Bridges Trail, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

Bridges and walkways traverse the ravines of Grant Park, one of the oldest parks in Milwaukee County.

By Lynn Kronschnabel-Bieser

Colorado Map

The Seven Bridges Trail offers a unique recreational and inspirational opportunity within the large urban area of Milwaukee County. The trail contains a series of bridges and walkways routed through a set of ravines that bisect Grant Park, and it exemplifies the grand vision of the Milwaukee County Park Commission of the early 20th century: to provide a well designed natural oasis amid the industrial expansion of Milwaukee.

photo of snowy trail
Winter on the Seven Bridges Trail

Established in 1911, Grant Park is one of the oldest parks in Milwaukee County, and one of the most significant in the development of the rest of the System. In 1914 the Milwaukee County Park Commission hired Frederick C. Wulff, a German horticulturist and arborist to develop a nursery, greenhouse, orchard, and game farm that would provide stock for the development of the Park System. Wulff was also responsible for the development of much of Grant Park, including the Seven Bridges Trail. In 1917 a house was built atop a ravine in what is now the Seven Bridges Trail for Wulff and his family. The house still stands at the edge of the trail and is used by youth organizations for overnight stays.

The development of the trail continued through the 1920’s and 30’s under the direction of Wulff. Over 200 WPA and CCC workers assisted in the construction of the trail, including several wooden footbridges, a covered, Bavarian style bridge, lannon stone stairways and walkways, stone retaining walls, a man-made waterfall with dams and ponds, and plantings along the ravines and rock walls. Great care was taken to blend the man-made structures in with the natural elements of the ravines, creating a dramatic, yet serene environment around the trail.

Today the Seven Bridges Trail is a focal point of Grant Park, drawing thousands of visitors of a broad and diverse population from the Milwaukee area and beyond. Many urban school groups visit the trail for nature study and overnight stays at the Wulff Lodge. The trail offers wonderful opportunities for birding, photography, wildlife observation, silent strolling, and access to Lake Michigan.

The Seven Bridges Trail allows access to many outstanding natural resources found within Grant Park. The ravines are heavily wooded with very old stands of American Beech, Maple, White Ash, and Yellow Birch trees. On the forest floor there is an abundance of spring ephemerals, Trout Lilies, Jack-in-the-Pulpits, May Apples, Trilliums, and many other native flora. Along the bluffs adjacent to the trail, there is a wet fen (meadow) which supports a population of plants, which are rare to the area. As a prime migratory route along Lake Michigan, the area is host to many migrating birds.

Best Wishes

The Friends of Grant Park wish Matt Collins the best as he moves on to become the Assistant Director of Parks for Kenosha. His position as the Grant Park Unit Coordinator will be filled by Jake Klingforth who is an energetic and highly skilled manager that will bring fresh ideas and a positive spirit to the Grant Park team.  He will officially start at Grant on 6/8 and can be reached by email Jacob.klingforth@milwaukeecountywi.gov

Good luck, Matt!

 

 

 

Milwaukee County Parks awarded $635,000 grant

By Press Release

Submitted to OnMilwaukee.comE-mail author

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 The grant money will be used to combat invasive species in the Great Lakes basin.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the Milwaukee County Parks will receive a grant of $635,000 as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to combat invasive species in the Great Lakes basin.

Milwaukee County Parks will collaborate with the Milwaukee Conservation Leadership Corps/Student Conservation Association, the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute to remove invasive plant species from 32 ecologically diverse natural areas encompassing 1,300 acres of critical wildlife habitat in the Milwaukee County Park System.

The project will also provide educational opportunities for students in grades 6-12 as well as for college students.

“Thank you to the EPA for this important opportunity to collaborate with them in achieving a shared goal of environmental stewardship,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “Equally as important, we will engage students around Milwaukee County in a hands-on learning opportunity that will not only benefit the park land directly, but also instill a sense of environmental ethics and pride in our great park system.”​

In other grants news, the Milwaukee County Parks Department has received a 2015 Root River Watershed Initiative Network grant of $9,910 to reforest 6.9 acres of leased agricultural land.

The reforestation project, directly adjacent to the Root River, will be planted to a diversity of native trees and shrubs that will provide habitat for migratory and breeding wildlife populations. The Parks Department will be partnering with the Franklin High School Eco-Club to install this planting in the fall of 2015.

Briggs & Stratton Lends a Hand

Grant Park was lucky to get pampered on May 17th by the generous folks at Briggs & Stratton, who came by the carload to help spruce up the park. The weather was sunny, if a bit brisk in the morning, but warmed up as the day passed. Gathering at the area #5 pavilion, the crew was briefed on various chores needing their attention that day. On their “to do” list: painting area #5 pavilion and picnic tables; weeding and planting native species in a rain garden; sweeping and clearing stairs in Seven Bridges ravine; and spray-painting the lines in parking lots.

When a large group of volunteers all work together, fun happens, and the park and the community it serves all shine. Thank you!

Workers choose their tools for the task(s) at hand.

Workers choose their tools for the task(s) at hand.

Sweeping and clearing all those stairs was no small job.

Sweeping and clearing all those stairs was no small job.

Table 38, 39, 40... but who's counting?

Table 38, 39, 40… but who’s counting?

Lines in the parking lot were faintly visible before painting.

Lines in the parking lot were faintly visible before painting.

Another Eagle Scout Project

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Chris Sobszak, from Boy Scout Troop 252, is focusing his attention on his eagle scout project at picnic area 3. Numerous picnic tables there make it a difficult area for park’s staff to mow, so Chris is installing a large area of paving stones for the tables to rest on, creating a no-mow zone. Thanks to funding from FOGP, Friends of the Mill Pond and others, the project was completed by mentors and members of Troop 252. Nice work, guys!

Slope Restoration Grant Project

 

On December 7th, 2012, the Friends of Grant Park were awarded a matching $5,000 mini grant from Sweet Water – the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, Inc. The aim of the grant program is to improve water quality in the Milwaukee and Racine area watersheds area by supporting local, grassroots efforts that employ green infrastructure practices and conservation-related activities that will improve water quality, restore/reserve habitat or educate people about these issues and associated stewardship actions.

Our desire was to stabilize slopes in the “Seven Bridges” ravine.  These slopes were compromised over the last few summers by the increased foot traffic of many who love and continued to use the park after a heavy storm washed out one of the critical beach access bridges. The mini grant allowed us to re-establish native ground, shrub and tree vegetative cover on these slopes with appropriate coir and biodegradable erosion fabric.  Natural “wattle” fencing was included to discourage further foot traffic.

Habitat preservation will serve migratory species within this riparian corridor. Stabilizing the upper and intermediate slopes with over and understory plants means that species dependent upon clean water, and healthy insect and invertebrate reproduction will continue to flourish in the long-shaded and cool environs of the ravine.

We were fortunate to have over 2 dozen volunteers before and on June 8th, who helped with the actual installation. We were blessed with no mosquitos and fabulously cool weather for the daunting task of hauling nearly 20 yards of weed-free compost down the slope. We had help from landscape professionals Mike Marek and crew, who showed us how to install erosion blankets and slope interruptors in steeply eroded areas. To see pictures of our project, visit the photo gallery and click on “slope restoration”.