The River Revitalization Foundation was established in 1994 by two of the larger service clubs in Wisconsin: Kiwanis Club of Milwaukee, and the Rotary Club of Milwaukee; in response to recommendations made by the Milwaukee River Revitalization Council which was to improve the environmental quality of the Milwaukee River Basin.
We connect people in the city to the lands along the river and invite others to do the same, through: Conservation, Education, Restoration and Public Access.
Extensive habitat restoration; removal of invasive species, planting of native vegetation, with the assistance of: Earn & Learn program, summer ecological restoration urban youth interns, UW-Milwaukee Service Learning program students, FORB volunteers and other volunteer groups and Americorp summer group.
The Milwaukee River Greenway is a six mile section of the Milwaukee River that has shaped much of Milwaukee’s development. Home to Native American settlements followed by European settlers, the river has supported diverse communities with sustenance, industrial power, and recreation. During the first half of the 20th Century, the river was the center of water recreation in the city, with swimming schools, slides, ice skating, and even an amusement park. Unfortunately, as pollution increased and water quality declined, the river was no longer suitable for these activities.
The removal of the North Ave Dam in 1997 began a turnaround in the river’s fortunes as urban dwellers and wildlife returned to this resilient shoreline in the most densely populated municipality in the state. When the dam was removed, the flats along the river which had formerly been submerged were exposed.
The City of Milwaukee, Department of Natural Resources, and Milwaukee County worked together to stabilize these areas. Since then, the ecological restoration activities of Milwaukee County Parks and Coalition members have had an incredible impact. Water quality has slowly but steadily improved. Fish diversity has jumped six fold. The river acts as a flyway and home for over 200 species of birds, numerous mammals, amphibians, reptiles and unique flora, including several threatened species. People have begun using the space again as well, fishing, paddling, hiking, jogging, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing in this unique urban natural corridor.
The 2.5 miles of river from the Estabrook Dam to the North Avenue Dam narrowed considerably as the free-flowing river resumed a more natural course. The drawdown also exposed more than 150 years of accumulated garbage. During the summers of 1991 and 1992, Youth Conservation Corps members and numerous volunteers removed and recycled more than 2,000 tires and about 600 yards of other debris including auto parts, shopping carts and appliances. Water quality and habitat was improving. Fish subsequently moved in from populations upstream and downstream of the former dam.