Meet James Toth: Artist-in-Residence

James Toth chose Grant Park and we couldn’t be happier.

2022 Artist in Residence 

Jim Toth was an art teacher in South Milwaukee from 1975 to 1995, then as Director of Exhibits for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Now retired, Jim was accepted as an Artist-in-Residence as part of the ARTservancy program at Gallery 224 in Port Washington. This program pairs artists with land trusts, nature conservancies and parks to create a body of work inspired by the properties. He chose Grant Park for his 2022 residency.

On Sunday, Aug. 21st, Jim led a nature walk through the Seven Bridges Ravine informing participants how to look to nature for principles and elements of design that may improve their own artistic expressions, be it painting, drawing or photography. 20 some participants were given small rectangles of mat board suitable for framing art to use as a tool to visualize how to frame the object(s) of a composition. We ended our walk at the beach, where participants created their own grouping of elements using those principles.

James Toth (2nd from left) describing 7 principles of design
Participants view natural elements through a mat board frame
Natural elements of design
A combination of rough texture, smooth, light and dark, positive and negative space

We Energies Foundation support

The Friends of Grant Park are pleased to be recipients of a We Energies Foundation grant. The funds will be used to purchase young trees to replace the invasive Japanese Tree Lilac we have recently been removing. New tree saplings will be protected with fencing to prevent grazing by deer.

Program/Project: Tree Planting
Amount: $1,200.00

We Energies Foundation is making this contribution because they believe that together, we can create a brighter future for the communities we serve.

Eaton’s Gift

 Special thanks to South Milwaukee’s Eaton Corporation and dedicated employee organizer Tony DeHoyos, our chairperson Jody Johnson accepted a most generous donation on Thursday to be applied to our ravine restoration and preservation work in particular. Thank you, Tony and Eaton.

Jody Johnson, HR Manager Nate Schoppe, O.P.S. Manager Jason Burt and Tony DeHoyos

No Mow May!

The goal of No Mow May is to allow grass to grow un-mown for the month of May, creating habitat and forage for early season pollinators. This is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited. However, South Milwaukee will enforce that residential grass cannot be above 6 inches and will give citizens citations. Cudahy and Saint Francis will not be citing citizens in May. Not sure if parks’ maintenance staff will be participating…

So, help the bees and leave that lawnmower in the garage (until it hits 6″ in South Milwaukee).

Remember white clover in your lawns?

Community Clean Up, Grant Park, April 16

These hardy souls braved gusts of 25 mph winds and 40º temperatures for a good purpose!

Thank you to volunteers for participating in our Community Clean Up… a great way to honor Earth Day! The Friends of Grant Park and the South Milwaukee / St. Francis Health Department, working as partners for a Community Clean Up in Grant Park on Saturday, April 16, were pleased to welcome 26 volunteers. You can see in both photos that very stiff winds had removed shingles from the roof of Ferch’s. Volunteers found most of them on the beach!

We targeted three areas needing attention in the park:

  • Grant Park’s main beach
  • Wil-o-Way center parking lot
  • Area 5 parking lot

Supplies were provided on site.

All volunteers completed and submitted a volunteer/COVID-19 waiver on site or online at:

(Similar clean up events will be held in both Sheridan and Bender Park on April 23rd.)

No Foraging Allowed

A proposal to amend Milwaukee County Ordinance 47.08 to allow foraging of fruit, nuts and certain varieties of fungi was defeated by Milwaukee County supervisors after receiving strong opposition from FOGP and others. We opposed the ordinance due to the probability of increased foot traffic on sensitive off-trail areas of the park by those in search of certain plant materials. Other parks have reported extirpation of numerous species due to foraging practices. The ordinance would have applied to ALL county parks. Similarly sized metropolitan parks in other cities have all banned the practice.

Nature has provided a variety of plant materials to support the various animals and birds that inhabit the park as they seek food to sustain themselves. Similar sources of food are available for human consumption at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. When humans gather plant materials from the parks, they deprive the resident animals and birds thereby increasing the likelihood that their numbers will decline. Is that what we wish for?

Trees planted!

The Park People is the umbrella organization that helps form local friends groups to advocate for our county parks. They were instrumental in establishing the WeedOut! program, and hold a yearly gathering for member groups to share ideas and learn from each other. Their annual newsletter featured accomplishments of several Friends Groups including Friends of Grant Park.

Here is their newsletter page highlighting our 2021 tree planting efforts:

We purchase trees each year for planting, and volunteers are always willing to lend a hand. You can volunteer for next season by contacting us at We’ll give you a call when we receive our order of trees.

Our Root-Pike River Basin Tour

On Aug. 24th, several FOGP members traveled to the Root and Pike River watershed to tour restoration areas and improvements made over the last 20 years by the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (Root-Pike WIN). Our guide, Bill Sasse, a new member of FOGP, is a board member and former president with Root-Pike WIN. Since we are setting aside a significant portion of our fundraising money to fix erosion of a slope above a bridge in Grant Park, we thought we should see what Root-Pike WIN has accomplished. We toured a restored prairie in Pritchard Park; a stream restoration and bike path in Mount Pleasant; and a regenerative storm water conveyance in Kenosha filtering runoff from farmers soybean fields into the Pike River. Our last stop was the restoration at Petrifying Springs Park to view the refreshing clean waters of the Pike River stream flowing past a pavilion with graduated stone embankments to minimize erosion. Did I mention it was 94º with high humidity on Aug. 24th?

FOGP members visit a Root-Pike WIN prairie restoration in Pritchard Park in Racine

Root-Pike WIN has tirelessly partnered with federal, state, county, corporate and community partners to address the task before them. Layer after layer of planning, engineering, permitting, land acquisition, and construction, along with volunteers following up with planting prairie seed mixtures and removal of invasive species has resulted in a greener, cleaner watershed that benefits our rivers and our communities.

Thank you to Bill Sasse, and all the volunteers and partners of Root-Pike WIN for their accomplishments and a job very well done. Now it’s our turn to roll up our sleeves for the Oak Creek Watershed.

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

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.

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.

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.