Riveredge Nature Center

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Riveredge Nature Center is a "learning laboratory" for biodiversity that covers 379 acres of land right outside the small town of Newburg,WI. It is a wildlife sanctuary for people of all ages to explore and also offers many courses and programs for anyone in the community to learn more about the environment. It is most known for it's maple sugaring event that many people in the area love to take part in and takes place every year in the months of February and March.

Riveredge Nature Center
Visitor Center at Riveredge [1]

History

The Whitefish Bay Garden Club, a small group of 25 women, came up with the idea of establishing a nature center in the area. They wanted a facility for children in the area to learn more about environmental education. Then in 1965, a committee inspected the site that actually became the site where Riveredge is located today. In 1968, the Riveredge foundation was formed with the intentions to raise the money needed to purchase the plot of land near Newburg on the Milwaukee River.[1] The first contributions came from the Whitefish Bay Garden Club when the fund drive was started in October and they slowly gained enough funds with the help of people in the community to eventually raise $14,500."At the end of October, the Riveredge Board, not without some anxiety, committed $14,500 as down payment on the purchase of the land. In early December,1968, the seed germinated when the land along the river was purchased. A dream became reality."[2] In the following month, the Junior League of Milwaukee contributed $33,000 to Riveredge to develop an educational program and to hire a professional naturalist.[3] Andy Larsen was hired for the job in June of 1969 and educational programs stared being created for the center. Many volunteers helped out throughout the winter of 1969-1970 and with a grant from the Milwaukee foundation, six school districts in the area were chosen to pilot the new educational programs. Riveredge started to work on its second goal of preserving nature in the area by purchasing 70 acres of farmland near the center that were fields full of corn at the time.[4] Today those fields they purchased are fully alive with prairie plants and insects. They purchased an addition 72 acres of farmland in 1972 for the purpose of digging up part of the land to create ponds. Thousands of students visited the center throughout the 70’s. Riveredge focused much of its attention to keeping the Milwaukee River clean which lead to the creation of the “Testing the Waters” program in 1986. To meet growing demands Riveredge began construction of an environmental education center in 1988. The construction of this center allowed for the creation of even more educational programs that are still being offered and improved to this day.

About Riveredge

Riveredge has 4 very important goals. They are to bring nature to communities, empower education, create better lifestyles, and to continue environmental research. Riveredge is really focused on getting families to take time out of their busy and stressful lives to just explore nature with their loved ones. They even have a partnership with the “Every Kid in a Park” campaign that offers free memberships to the nature center for all fourth graders and their families during their fourth grade year. Not only does this event help children learn more about the nature around them, but it also helps families to connect more and just enjoy the great outdoors. “From increased attention, creativity, and calmness to overall benefits to the body and mind, time in nature just maybe what our world needs to bring balance back into the lives of both children and adults.”[5] Riveredge has a strong tradition of collecting syrup from maple trees every year in March. The staff shows students the process measuring the tree to see if its big enough to collect syrup from and how to tap the tree with a spike. "Students, staff and volunteers will tap about 400 trees in three sugar bushes at Riveredge."[6] Some volunteers might have to make two or three collections of syrup each day. Everyone gets paid for their hard work with pancakes covered in the maple syrup they collected with a pickle on the side. This tradition has lasted over 40 years and is one of the best events to participate in for visitors and students. Riveredge always has fun events going on for the community to enjoy year round. From tree climbing, to kayaking, or even just a relaxing walk around nature, there’s always an activity for everyone to enjoy.

Map of Riveredge Sanctuary
Map of Riveredge Sanctuary Source: [2]

Location

Riveredge Nature Center is located at 4458 County Highway Y, Saukville, WI 53083

Education

Riveredge offers many educational programs for both children and adults. For children there are over 20 programs offered at Riveredge. Most programs only take a couple hours and are held outdoors in the sanctuary. There are a wide variety of courses offered such as Fruits of the fall, Winter Wildlife Habitat, Art in Nature, Garden Explorations, and even Maple Sugaring. All of the courses are meant to be hands on and fun for all kids to enjoy. Riveredge also partners with schools in the area to offer some programs right at the school. Adults can also take part in programs such as ephemeral pond monitoring, the “Science for Everyone” lecture series, and organism population counts. There’s also clubs for adults to join like the Noel J. Cutright Bird Club or the Photo Club.

Research

Riveredge not only provides many population counts in the area, but also is currently working on three projects that the whole state of Wisconsin are also actively working on in the environment. They are working on the 20 year statewide project of reintroducing Lake Sturgeon back into Lake Michigan. They are also trying to reintroduce the Swamp Metalmark Butteryfly back into the Wisconsin ecosystem. Along with these reintroduction projects they are also taking strides into preventing the spread of invasive wild species in Wisconsin such as the Emerald Ash Borer. Riveredge's partnership with the UW school has brought even more students to the nature center to conduct their own projects. "Over the past 5 years, we (Riveredge) have partnered with the University of Wisconsin system and other colleges and universities conduct independent student research projects, as well as supply biology departments and classes with different taxonomic data (gathered at Riveredge) to be used in classroom exercises."[7] Just in the past 5 years there have already been three studies done on birds by UW-Platteville biology students looking at precipitation levels and how they affect birds in the area. Riveredge also holds an annual research symposium to help educate people about conservation and to recognize students for their successful research projects. In 2014 more than 30 undergraduate students from universities in Wisconsin presented on a variety of topics including conservation and restoration.[8] "Sara Allen, TREES Lab manager and research associate at UW-Platteville, presented her work on the Driftless Oak Project, a two-year project being conducted through the TREES Lab that is developing a network of tree-ring chronologies across Southwest Wisconsin to improve understanding of patterns of drought across the region for the past three centuries."[9]

References

  1. "Riveredge History", Riveredge Nature Center. Accessed 01 May 2017. http://www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/history/
  2. "Riveredge History", Riveredge Nature Center. Accessed 01 May 2017. http://www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/history/
  3. "Riveredge History", Riveredge Nature Center. Accessed 01 May 2017. http://www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/history/
  4. "Riveredge History", Riveredge Nature Center. Accessed 01 May 2017. http://www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/history/
  5. "The Mission", Riveredge Nature Center. Accessed 01 May 2017. http://www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/the-mission/.
  6. Lewis, Chelsey. "Riveredge Nature Center Taps into Wild Wisconsin." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 25 Feb. 2016 http://www.jsonline.com/story/travel/2016/02/25/day-out-riveredge-nature-center-taps-into-wild-wisconsin/84818580/
  7. "Research", Riveredge Nature Center. Accessed 02 May 2017. http://www.riveredgenaturecenter.org/research/
  8. Hamer, Laurie. "Geography Student Wins First Place at Research Symposium." University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Accessed 03 May 2017. https://www.uwplatt.edu/news/geography-student-wins-first-place-research-symposium
  9. Hamer, Laurie. "Geography Student Wins First Place at Research Symposium." University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Accessed 03 May 2017. https://www.uwplatt.edu/news/geography-student-wins-first-place-research-symposium

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