Restoring the Great Lakes: Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum

This post is the first in a series that details the innovative Wisconsin conservation projects that are having a positive impact on Great Lakes water quality and that will be featured on our August 10th Great Lakes Restoration Tour.  The tour is open to the public.  For full event details and to register please visit our website

Through a remarkable partnership between Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the Urban Ecology Center, the River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee County Parks, private businesses, and local landowners, Milwaukee will soon enjoy a 40 acre arboretum along the Milwaukee River.  The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum will become the gateway of the Milwaukee Greenway and will feature native species and improved wildlife habitat.  In addition, the restoration of this previously industrial land will decrease the amount of polluted runoff into the Milwaukee River, only a few miles from where it flows into Lake Michigan.

Construction is currently underway and the arboretum opening is scheduled for the fall of 2013.  Once complete, the arboretum will extend from North Avenue to Locust Street, stretching upward through Riverside Park. It will be bounded on the west by the Milwaukee River and the east by the Oak Leaf Trail, and will feature:

  • 3.7 miles of trails including a two mile wheel chair accessible loop
  • One thousand newly planted trees
  • Three distinct outdoor learning areas for school children
  • Amenities to include a new pedestrian bridge, a fishing dock, and a wheel chair accessible canoe launch
  • An estimated 300,000 visitors per year
  • At least one parking area

The 40 acre arboretum will be a permanent addition to the Milwaukee landscape and will serve as an important recreational, teaching and research center.  When complete it will be the most biologically diverse natural area in Southeastern Wisconsin.

In addition to the contributions of the partners listed above, significant funding for the arboretum was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative of the EPA, which recognizes that enhancing the land quality along the river will improve the water quality of the Milwaukee River which feeds directly into Lake Michigan.

Please make plans to join us for the Great Lakes Restoration Tour on August 10th and visit this, and other significant Milwaukee-area sites, that are enhancing Great Lakes restoration efforts.