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Suburban Soles 2020 Guided Nature Walks Calendar

Suburban Soles is moving forward as a non-FOGP event. Our group is not able to sponsor this activity because of Milwaukee County Parks Covid-19 guidelines. Because of continued public interest, these are the remaining dates. Contact Brian Morrison for further details at 414.588.5134.

These events will be sure to enforce the safer at 6 feet apart guideline. Face masks are strongly encouraged. Please consider others and do not attend this event if you have any suspicion of illness or may have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

July 12, Bloom Where You are Planted, CANCELLED: MATC Horticulture Instructor Delisa White, facilitator. Look at native & non-native plants… What is a “native” plant? Are non-native plants “bad” plants? Can native and non-native plants coexist? Join us as we walk the trails of Grant Park locating both native and non-native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.

July 26, South Milwaukee Takes Root, 10 am, Grant Park golf clubhouse: Local historian Nels Munson, facilitator. Focusing on the earliest days of the settlement in what we now know as South Milwaukee, join us as we learn about the family of John Fowle, who settled in this area in 1835, and walk the beach to hear about the various industries located there during our city’s formative years.

Aug. 9, Pollinator Power, 10 am, Grant Park area 5: Wehr Nature Center Naturalist Brooke Gilley, facilitator. What do bats, bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and hummingbirds have in common? All of them have the power of pollination! Help to support the importance of pollinators.

Aug. 23, Let’s Work Together, 10 am, Grant Park area 5: Urban Ecology Center Land Steward Jeff Veglahn, facilitator. Learn about the amazing pant communities & diverse ecosystems found in Grant Park! Jeff will lead us through Seven Bridges where we will learn about the plant communities made up of herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees that together make up the ravine.

Sept. 13, Leave it to Trees, 10 am, Grant Park area 5: Retired Arboriculture Instructor at MATC Mike Wendt, facilitator. A self-titled Tree Geek, Mike will guide us along the Seven Bridges trail to gain insight into our woody friends and teach us fool-proof ways to identify trees, and how trees can be successfully used in landscapes. Mike guarantees at least 100 tree trivia facts and warns participants that tree enthusiasm can be contagious!

Sept. 27, Meet your Wild Neighbors, PENDING, 10 am, Mill Hill, 601 Milwaukee Ave., South Milwaukee: Urban wildlife abounds throughout Milwaukee County, and Grant Park is lucky enough to enjoy a wide variety of urban mammals. Join Wisconsin DNR’s Milwaukee County Wildlife Biologist, Dianne Robinson, to discuss our wildlife neighbors. Learn how to coexist with these urban critters, even when they are a nuisance.

We will also post the flyer in kiosks within Grant Park.

Are Park Restrooms Open?

In response to your questions about the restrooms, the only ones to be open this summer will be at Fritch’s at Grant Park Beach, and only when they are open. Port-a-potties have been put in place; two at Picnic Area #4, two at Area #5A, two at #7, and two behind the stone building (restroom) at the children’s playground near the maintenance yard office. 

Socially Distant Arbor Day

The friends of Grant Park were very fortunate to receive 200 Quercus rubra/Red Oak saplings donated by Caterpillar, Inc.  Oaks may be the single most important tree in North America for wildlife value. However, even though April 24th was Arbor Day, no one was gathering anywhere to honor the spirit of the day, let alone plant trees.

Quercus rubra

 
The plan last Fall was to make a tree available to every one of our incredible Weed Out volunteers in Spring 2020 for planting in the areas we have managed to clear (mostly, ahem) of invasive garlic mustard and old-specie Japanese Tree Lilac.  We hoped to help make the connection as to why we even bother with the weeds.  It’s for the trees and the forest that we commit our annual spring efforts to removing invasive species; so it makes sense that we carry forward with a new generation of tree planting, right?

 
Our problem was obvious: the valuable Oaks arrived last week and we’re presented with the question: how do we spread the task of transplanting them among volunteers who have been instructed to avoid gatherings and stay at home? The answer we found: one planter or family unit at a time using printed “how-to” directions, social distancing, and masks. Several intrepid volunteers from our group agreed to plant in an area recently cleared of a dense growth of the invasive Japanese Tree Lilac which had been spreading via root systems unchecked in our original County Parks nursery for 100 years. Working independently, or as a single unit family group, transplanting was begun on April 26th. We hope to have 200 trees in the ground by May 1st.


Thank you to our family and solo units: John & Peyton; Becky, Rob, George & Peter; Pam & Dave; Betsy, Rick, Deb, Jody and Lynn for their help at this time. We are hopeful our efforts take root, and that flagging for the new small trees will help visitors to the park avoid stepping on them.  

COVID-19 information and closures

The entrance roads into Grant Park are now closed at the main entrance and adjacent to the golf course parking lot. Parking lots and restrooms are closed. Parks administration has taken this step to discourage carloads of people entering lakefront parks as warmer days occur, making social distancing difficult. Due to the efforts to delay the spread of COVID-19, Milwaukee County Parks has closed all golf courses, club houses and disc golf effective March 17, 2020. All dog parks have also been closed and locked until further notice. Parks has canceled park rentals, special events and organized sports activities through April 17, 2020. Reservations are still being taken for events that take place after May 15, 2020. While information is continuing to evolve, effective immediately, playgrounds are now closed to the public.

“The health and safety of our community and staff members are our highest priority,” Parks Executive Director Guy Smith said. “We want to remind people that Parks remain a healthy support in this situation. People may practice social distancing and healthy habits while enjoying their parks, and the department will do our best to keep outdoor park facilities accessible to the public during this challenging time.”

 As part of our continued efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 all playgrounds in Milwaukee County Parks have been closed. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can remain on plastic and metal surfaces for several days. While we recognize these closures are disappointing and inconvenient, they are essential to support the health of our community at this time. Thanks for your understanding.

If your playgrounds have not yet, they should shortly be receiving signage explaining the closures.

For more information from Milwaukee County, please continue to monitor updates online: https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/COVID-19. We are also providing updates on the Parks Nextdoor website and on social media.

Rolling Back Environmental Protections?

The Friends of Grant Park are concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency’s programs being whittled down to a bare minimum by the current administration. We hope members will contact their legislators and vote for candidates that advocate for stronger environmental protections. Here is an article to illustrate our concern:

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/12/760203456/epa-makes-rollback-of-clean-water-rules-official-repealing-2015-protections

South East Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s Master Plan for Oak Creek Watershed

After months of study, the South East Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) has posted Chapter 4 of the master plan for the Oak Creek watershed. Some surprising findings include PCB levels discovered at the sand bar mouth of Oak Creek at Grant Park beach that are twice as high as those at the MKE harbor. Also, high chlorides found in the watershed. You can read the report online at sewrpc.org.

The summary presentation for the 2nd half of Chapter 4 of the Oak Creek plan is now available on the project website (as of June 5).  It can be found at the link below – the presentation is located at the top of the links under the title Summary Presentation for the second half of Chapter 4.  

https://www.sewrpc.org/SEWRPC/Environment/Restoration-Plan-Oak-Creek-Watershed.htm

The Friends of Grant Park sent a letter of concern on January 24th, 2020, to the WI-DNR regarding the high PCB levels found at the mouth of Oak Creek in Grant Park. Four days later, the WI-DNR and the EPA announced the Great Lakes Legacy Act Agreement (signed on Jan. 6, 2020) to address a 32-year-old Area of Concern: the Milwaukee Harbor Estuary, which had PCB levels half as high as the Oak Creek samples taken by SEWRPC. We are still waiting for a reply.

Adopt-a-Beach with FOGP

The Friends of Grant Park, partnering with Alliance for the Great Lakes, will host a beach clean-up at the Seven Bridges trail beach to address the litter left behind from a summer of fun on Lake Michigan. Volunteers will collect and record the litter to inform a database. This data helps Alliance for the Great Lakes to advocate for changes to improve the long term health of the Great Lakes.

  • Saturday, Sept. 21st
  • 9 am to Noon
  • Meet us in Area 5 parking lot (not at the swimming beach)

So, bring a friend, the kids, and your brother to help to make the beach sparkle a bit more afterward. Even if you can only stay for an hour, we welcome your participation. It helps us plan if we know you’re coming… you can pre-register at greatlakesadopt.org. Pre-registration is nice, but not required. We will supply a bag, a glove, bug spray and a refreshment. Oh, and lots of hand sanitizer!

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.