Urban Ecology Center

Milwaukee Travel Blog

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Urban Ecology Center from the street level

So continuing on with my Milwaukee tourist activities, I went to the Urban Ecology Center for a self-guided tour.  I may actually try to make it back next week to do a tour with the executive director (he has one every Wednesday at 9am).  I have been on a tour of the ecology center before, but I just love this place so I wanted to share it with the travbuddies out there. 

The Urban Ecology center, like everything great in Milwaukee, is on the east side of town.  I took the Oak Leaf trail to get there.  The Oak Leaf trail is a fantastic trail that runs through a large part of Milwaukee.  This particular portion runs below street level and provides a great multi-use paved trail.

Climbing Wall
  It even has on/off ramps complete with mini stop signs!  It is about a mile or so walk on the trail from my place to the ecology center.   As I approach I can hear the cheers of kids on the climbing wall.  Yes, in the middle of Milwaukee is a 40 foot outdoor climbing wall.  How cool is that!  I stop and watch the kids for a little bit and wish my nieces and nephews would come visit so I can take them there.  The Urban Ecology Center is a great place to take your children that is off the beaten path.  I then watch a lady doing her gardening at a community garden plot that lines the trail.  I think it's for those of us that enjoy urban living, but still like the idea of a garden.  I remember from the last tour I had that this was a big hit and there was a waiting list to get one.
Community Gardens
  Of course, watching someone gardening is really not that fun, so I head past the bike racks and go up the stairs to the entrance.  Here is something interesting about the employees of the Urban Ecology Center, they get $1 a day added to their paycheck for everyday that they commute to work utilizing a transportation method that doesn't use fossil fuels.  I think I recall that they get .50 if they use shared/public transport.

So I head indoors and pick up a self-guided tour pamphlet and I'm on my way.  I first head to the Native Wisconsin Animal room to check out the animals.  This room houses animals that are native to the area and tells you what "eco-zone" they represent (that wording is straight from the guide pamphlet)!!  I had a staring contest with a frog and got the heebie jeebies from a snake.

The winner of a staring contest
  I think I recall that these animals can be found in Riverside Park, which is adjacent to the UEC.  I would rather see them in this room than out and about on a walk, but that's just me!!  I walk out to the crayfish touch tank and peek in.  Supposedly, you actually put your hand in this tank and see how many crayfish you can find...No thank you!

One of the most amazing things about the center is its use of recycled material.  Everything from a table that used to be a bowling alley to a deck that uses wood left over from the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  I head up to check out the second level that houses the green roof and deck and has a big tipi (this is how they spell it...I've always spelled it teepee).  Apparently in the winter they have a fire and use the teepee as an outdoor classroom.

Rooftop
  Fun!  I however, am more intrigued by the rain water system you can see.  The rain water that falls off one side of the building goes into these 350 gallon cisterns and this is the water that is used in the toilets.  They even have two different flushes on the toilets to use more or less water.  And extra water goes to a pond where they do studies. The rainwater from the otherside of the building goes into a garden.

 From the deck you can take stairs that lead to an observation tower (the stairs are actually the backside of the climbing wall).  I suppose you are observing the local area, but there really isn't much to be seen from here that is interesting to me.    Regardless, they do have some chairs (including kid size chairs) so you can actually just have a seat and enjoy a nice day.

Oak Leaf Trail
   Which I do for about a half an hour.  It's very peaceful.  I head back down the stairs and think they would be great exercise some time.

Once I'm back inside I peek briefly into the rooms upstairs, the camouflage room and a citizen science room and then go to the basement that also has a community room for workshops and party rentals,a kitchen and most importantly a room and hallway full of outdoor recreation equipment.  Here, if you are a member of the UEC you can borrow all sorts of outdoor fun equipment.  They have kayaks, canoes, ski equipment, snowshoes and tools for gardening.  This is great if you live in a tiny place like I do and would have no place to keep this stuff.  From down on this level there is also a "tunnel" that leads directly back to the bike trail that I came from.

Whenever, I leave this place I am always so thrilled about it.  I really need to remember to take my family here the next time they come for a visit.

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Urban Ecology Center from the stre…
Urban Ecology Center from the str…
Climbing Wall
Climbing Wall
Community Gardens
Community Gardens
The winner of a staring contest
The winner of a staring contest
Rooftop
Rooftop
Oak Leaf Trail
Oak Leaf Trail
slides
slides
Native Wisconsin Animal Room
Native Wisconsin Animal Room
Hiding out
Hiding out
Hallway of equipment
Hallway of equipment
2nd floor of UEC
2nd floor of UEC
Inside the first floor of the UEC
Inside the first floor of the UEC
Pond used for studying
Pond used for studying
Water barrels
Water barrels
Solar paneled roof
Solar paneled roof
View of the pond water system (see…
View of the pond water system (se…
exit to trail
exit to trail
Urban Ecology Center from Trail
Urban Ecology Center from Trail
Milwaukee
photo by: nik2blessed