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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Eddee Daniel Explores Milwaukee River Greenway In New Book

Eddee Daniel
Susan Bence
Photographer and writer Eddee Daniel in Estabrook Park, which is part of the Milwaukee River Greenway.

The Milwaukee River Greenway stretches eight miles — beginning where the North Avenue Dam used to stand just upstream from downtown Milwaukee and ending at Silver Spring Drive in Glendale. Its 878 acres has everything from managed parkland to wetlands and forests.

If you find yourself somewhere along the greenway in the next few months, you might run into people celebrating its very existence. The Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition is commemorating its 15th anniversary through mid-October with a variety of free events including hikes, yoga, film screenings and river cleanups.

The greenway owes its existence to that grassroots coalition that created a shared mission to preserve a natural experience in an urban area. Over the years, local photographer and writer Eddee Daniel has explored every path within the greenway with his camera in hand.

His new book, The Milwaukee River Greenway: A Wealth of Nature in the Heart of the City, includes not just Daniel’s photographs, but stories of the people who stewarded the river long before Milwaukee was Milwaukee.

Published by the River Revitalization Foundation, the book grew out of Daniel's year as an artist-in-residence at the greenway. However, Daniel's connection to the greenway goes back much further.

"When I moved here in 1977 and happened to find the greenway, it was not called that then, in fact it was considered dangerous, which is an important part of the story," he recalls. "... The book includes much of the history, an important piece of that history is the transformation that’s happened."

Daniel credits the Urban Ecology Center for helping to jump start the greenway. "Riverside Park in particular was considered dangerous. And when the Urban Ecology Center began, their expressed purpose was to take back the park and to make it safe, and to make it popular again, and they succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams," he says.

Daniel also points to the role the River Revitalization Foundation, Urban Ecology Center and the Rotary Club of Milwaukee played in creating the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. "When you go there, you see the arch that kind of leads you into the new part of the arboretum," he explains."Many people ... think that's the arboretum, but it's actually 40 acres that stretch all the way from Locust Street to North Avenue along the river."

And, while the area has changed a lot since Daniel first visited back in the '70s, he says he appreciates the greenway's unkempt wildness. "There's a certain amount of management, but it feels natural, that feels relatively wild, which is one of the things that appealed to me, particularly," he says.

Daniel says an enormous amount of effort went into creating the greenway — from the nonprofit and civic organizations involved to political will and business support. As for what it will take to keep the greenway thriving for years to come, Daniel says, "It certainly takes stewardship, you can't have a place like this without that."

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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