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Celebrate Earth Day by sprucing up Tosa green spaces

Christie Zona smiles up at her friends who aren't quite sure she'll make it back up the embankment of the Menomonee River in Hart Park. She was removing buckthorn branches along the river a previous year.

Christie Zona smiles up at her friends who aren't quite sure she'll make it back up the embankment of the Menomonee River in Hart Park. She was removing buckthorn branches along the river a previous year. Photo By Mary Catanese

April 23, 2014

As Old Man Winter gives up his stubborn grip, organizers throughout the Milwaukee area are ushering in spring and celebrating Earth Day with an assortment of cleanup projects.

In Wauwatosa, at least two large-scale events are planned on Earth Day — one at Honey Creek and the other at Hart Park. Grassroots organization Milwaukee Riverkeeper is assisting with both the city's efforts.

Because spring is getting a late start this year, most of the effort will be focused on trash removal, although volunteers might be enlisted to remove invasive species that have begun sprouting up.

Honey Creek cleanup

Wauwatosa resident Brent Brown is among the organizers of the Honey Creek cleanup effort, which is in its 12th year as a large-scale, organized event. Brown, an engineer with CH2M Hill, has enlisted his company's involvement this year.

Most of the Honey Creek work will focus on ridding the area of trash that has accumulated during the winter.

"We've been finding a massive amount of electronic equipment being dumped in the area," Brown said. "From water heaters to computer equipment — you name it and we've come across it. There's been a rather large quantity of really random stuff."

Volunteers — from youth to senior citizens — have actively been showing up each year for the Honey Creek cleanups. Brown said the event typically brings out about 150 people.

"It's a good way for people to take ownership of their community," Brown said.

Menomonee River work

On the other side of town, the Friends of Hart Park have initiated their own cleanup effort along the banks of the Menomonee River.

Rosemary Wehnes, president of the Friends group, said several goals are behind the effort, which has become a tradition at the park each Earth Day.

Volunteers will be enlisted to rid the area of any trash, but Wehnes said efforts also will be undertaken to address invasive species. Buckthorn could begin popping up, she said, but garlic mustard is not yet expected at this point.

This year, the friends group is going to plant upward of 100 trees and shrubs in and near the park and Menomonee River bank. Wehnes said a $2,500 grant is helping pay for the trees.

The Friends group undertook a similar tree-planting initiative two years ago, but the severe drought in late summer 2012 took a toll on the new plantings.

"We've had a great turnout of volunteers each year," Wehnes said. "They do a good job, and there's always a great deal of enthusiasm."

Volunteers taking part in the Honey Creek effort do not need to provide any supplies, but leaders with the Friends of Hart Park are asking participants to bring gloves, sheers, shovels and any other equipment that would be useful for the cleanup.

In both efforts, trash will be gathered in garbage bags and left on site and picked up later in the weekend through a cooperative effort with the Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization.

Volunteers are encouraged to register online at Milwaukee Riverkeeper's website, MKERiverKeeper.org, so organizers have an idea of how many people are taking part in this year's activities. T-shirts will be provided to each participant.

AT A GLANCE

WHO: Milwaukee Riverkeeper, CH2M HILL, Friends of Hart Park

WHAT: river-cleanups to celebrate Earth Day

WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon April 26

WHERE: Honey Creek, meet at CH2M Hill parking lot, 135 S. 84th St.

Hart Park, meet at Muellner building, 7300 W. Chestnut St.

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