Forest Service celebrates opening of arboretum and children’s forest

Leah Anderson
Eastern Region, U.S. Forest Service
November 18th, 2013 at 3:30PM

The Forest Service recently celebrated the opening of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum at the Urban Ecology Center -Riverside Park in Milwaukee.

In 2012, the USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region proudly joined Urban Ecology Center partners – the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks and the River Revitalization Foundation – in this exciting project.

The designation as a Forest Service’s Children’s Forest adds an element of wonder to the space. As visitors explore this outdoor play space, they will discover interpretive stations to help them forge a deeper connection with nature. Only one of 22 children’s forests throughout the country, this Milwaukee forest is one of only three located within a major urban area.

As you pass under the archway into the arboretum, you find yourself climbing a hill surrounded by beautiful native plants and trees. Descending the hill, you catch a glimpse of the Milwaukee River gently flowing. Moving from this “prairie” scape, you find yourself in the forest, searching out “imaginature stations,” signified by a leaf imprint on a small wooden tree ring– like a built in scavenger hunt!

When you get to the river, you can preview recent plantings, as well as non-native invasive species treatments on the river bank. You may even see ducks floating along, or people having fun careening down the river in a canoe.

And, that is just the beginning!

“I encourage visitors to come out to the new space and get your hands dirty by planting some native plants,” said Milwaukee Urban Connections coordinator Jean Claassen. “Visitors will also have the opportunity to receive a first-rate tour of the new arboretum from UEC educators.”

Visitors were able to witness the symmetry of nature and art through a beautiful painting by well-known artist Louise Phillips, who was on hand to dedicate it to the children’s forest. Phillips aspires to donate one of her paintings to each children’s forest across the country.

“A partnership truly flourishes when both parties have similar goals and missions. A key goal of the Eastern Region’s Urban Connections program is to connect urban residents with nature and encourage more kids in the woods,” said Eastern Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson.  “The mission of the UEC is to foster ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood. Because of this symmetry, we are excited about the possibilities of this partnership – and one great outcome is the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum.”