By Dylan Deprey
The nine mile stretch along the Lincoln Creek banks have finally shown its face, and after a long winter, they are pretty messy. There were traffic cones, tires and wheel chairs submerged in the water. Along the newly budding brush smatterings of chip bags covered and plastic grocery bags hung on the branches.
Volunteers dredged up and down the banks picking through the muddy mixture of litter and wildlife. Volunteers tossed bulging bags onto a growing pile. The pile would be even bigger after Saturday, April 22.
The Milwaukee Riverkeeper, with support of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewage District (MMSD), announced its Adopt-a- River campaign that will launch as an extension of its 22nd Annual Milwaukee Riverkeeper Clean Up.
Along with the 3,700 volunteers foraging for trash at 55 locations across the City of Milwaukee, the new program will allow individuals, organizations and community to adopt an area along the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic Rivers, their tributaries, the Estuary and near shore Lake Michigan. Adoptors will be on for a two-year commitment with a minimum of two designated clean-ups per year.
“Our Cleanup is a fun and meaningful way for our community to interact with our waterways. We know that when people take care of and connect to our rivers, they want to do more to protect and restore those rivers and ensure their children and future generations can swim, fish and recreate on those rivers,” said Jennifer Bolger Breceda, Executive Director for Milwaukee Riverkeeper during a press conference on April 20, 2017.
MMSD will be sponsoring the adopt-a-river program for the first year. John Hermes, MMSD Commission Chair, said keeping the waterways clean meant keeping Milwaukee’s drinking water clean because nearly 1.3 million people depend on Lake Michigan for drinking water.
“This is a connection between community, neighborhoods and their water sources to help people get connected and understand the environmental aspects of what’s important in today’s reclamation of water,” Hermes said.
Corey Zetts is the executive director for Menomonee Valley Partners (MVP), an organization dedicated to revitalizing and sustaining the Menomonee Valley. She said MVP had similar stewardship crews made up of local businesses and school programs to clean the Menomonee River banks as team building activities.
“We’ve seen that since the parks and trails have developed, that also developing that sense of ownership among the people that come to the valley every day and how they care for the land and feel that sense of pride and ownership” Interdisciplinary architecture and design firm, Kahler Slater, was the first adopter in the Milwaukee Riverkeeper’s Adopt-a-River program.
“The water that runs through our community is eventually the water that runs through us,” Slater said. “We are 60 percent water ourselves as a human species. It’s really vital we keep this natural resource clean.”
Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) has protected 6,600 acres of open scenic spaces over the past 25 years, and is now enrolling 5½ miles of Milwaukee River front. Tom Stolp, OWLT Executive Director, said the extra helping hand will give his staff to focus on restoring the riverbanks instead of pulling trash.
“It’s very meaningful for us, who are upstream, to know we have partners downstream who care about the Milwaukee River as much as we do,” Stolp said.
To find out more information, visit www.milwaukeeriverkeeper.org/adopt-a-river. Milwaukee Riverkeeper will be opening registration on Saturday, April 22, 2017