Three Bridges Park in Milwaukee with a small brown bridge extending over a waterway with yellow flowers and green grass on the edge.

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program Creates More Green Space Across Wisconsin

Many projects would not exist without Stewardship funding.

Reporting for WUWM radio station out of Milwaukee, Susan Bence and Jack Hurbanis collected Knowles-Nelson stories from a variety of organizations.

For example, Lulu Lake Preserve, half an hour south Milwaukee, was protected by the Nature Conservancy using matching funds from Knowles-Nelson. A mix of prairie and woodland, with both warm and cold water habitats, the site hosts an abundance of biodiversity.

“If there weren’t a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund… we wouldn’t have the flexibility to take advantage when someone is willing to sell an area that is of significance to the natural environment,” says Sarah Gatzke, director of water conservation with The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “It would be much more difficult for us to act in a timely fashion and be able to secure that.”

Ducks Unlimited biologist Brian Glenzinski agrees. His organization has “protected and restored more than 15,000 acres throughout Wisconsin,” and he says that “most, if not all of those projects, would not have been possible without the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.”

Knowles-Nelson isn’t just for rural areas. In the heart of Milwaukee, the Menomonie Valley Partners were able to use Stewardship funding purchase a vacant rail yard and restore it to create Three Bridges Park, a beautiful urban greenspace.

“[Residents] come to use Three Bridges Park for biking, walking, dog walking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing or just bird watching or quiet reflection,” says Corey Zetts, executive director of the Menomonie Valley Partners. “These are some of the most densely developed neighborhoods in Wisconsin and walking distance or a few minutes biking distance, it’s been really important. Just in the last year, we’ve seen 174,000 people come to park to walk or bike.”

That represents “a 474% increase since 2019.” It’s clear that Knowles-Nelson has had, and will continue to have, a huge impact across Wisconsin.

Featured image by Aaron Volkening, 2014.

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