Melissa Cook, 2014 Conservationist of the Year

Melissa Cook, a Parks and Recreation Specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), has dedicated the majority of her professional life to restoring the natural resources in the heart of Milwaukee, making those resources accessible to residents.

Through her leadership, Melissa has helped to develop a sense of ownership, stewardship and wonder among central city populations not often reached by typical environmental outreach efforts.

Melissa has demonstrated incredible vision and perseverance for over fifteen years, in the development, promotion, stewardship and enhancement of the Hank Aaron State Trail in the Menomonee Valley. This urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness, improvements to an important environmental corridor, rehabilitation of urban waterways, economic growth, and overall quality of urban life. Through her leadership, Melissa has helped to develop a sense of ownership, stewardship and wonder among central city populations not often reached by typical environmental outreach efforts.

Menomonee River in 1999, and Menomonee River and Hank Aaron State Trail in 2011. What a difference!

Menomonee River in 1999

“Melissa’s vision, leadership and unwavering perseverance are a primary reason why a once forgotten stretch of river cutting though a vacant brownfield is today filled with neighborhood children walking river paths, anglers catching salmon, bikers from throughout SE Wisconsin, and an array of native flora and fauna re-establishing along the Menomonee River.” (Laura Bray, Executive Director, Menomonee Valley Partners)

Bray & MVP - letter of support2

Menomonee River and Hank Aaron State Trail in 2011. What a difference!

Over the last fifteen years, Melissa has coordinated events such as the Hank Aaron run/walk every August, river clean ups, volunteer days to plant native species along the trail and public events to educate the community about this great asset. She also helped to create Stew Crews – businesses, schools, and neighborhood organizations who have adopted sections of the Trail and help with its maintenance.

Among other things, this urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness, including an annual run/walk, coordinated by Melissa Cook.

Among other things, this urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness- including an annual run/walk, coordinated by Melissa Cook.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Melissa Cook with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!