A Wearing Problem

Granville Park in Milwaukee, Wis., is somewhat of a secret for the dogs and their owners who are drawn to the park because of its rustic setting, as well as its access to the Menomonee River.

A dog enjoys a walk along a trail in Milwaukee’s Granville Park. Photos Courtesy of R.A. Smith National

Owned and operated by the Milwaukee County Parks Department, the dog park was the first in the county where dogs could exercise and run off-leash. Today, it’s the largest park of its kind in the region.

Although incredibly popular among regular users, there are many residents who are not aware the park exists because of its remote proximity to—and access from—a frontage road along a highway interchange. The 26-acre park is located upstream of Lake Michigan along the Upper Menomonee River.

Use of the park is limited during certain times of the year, however, because the current river-access area is in a large floodplain. In addition, many years of heavy and unrestricted trail use have caused severe soil compaction and erosion along the riverbank. This has compromised the stability of the river’s streambank, which has resulted in large amounts of sediment pouring into the river.

Much of the area along the riparian terrace has been completely depleted of topsoil, uncovering the clay subsoil, which gets extremely muddy following rain events. The roots of the trees are exposed, and any understory vegetation is almost non-existent.

While dogs are busy roaming and enjoying the park, the county, the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF), and a local “friends” group—Residents for Off-Leash Milwaukee Parks (ROMP)—are working together behind the scenes to:

• Improve water quality on the river

• Develop solutions to the park’s severe erosion issues

• Educate park users on the value of riparian buffers

• Improve the dogs’ experience.

Plan To Evade Erosion

The RRF, Milwaukee’s urban land trust, is a local conservation non-profit organization centered on preserving and enhancing the local river parkways for public access, recreation, and education.

RRF received funding in early 2012 from the Fund for Lake Michigan (a funding resource for projects impacting Lake Michigan’s water quality) to conduct initial planning, feasibility, and outreach for 900 feet of streambank stabilization and riparian habitat restoration at the Granville site.

It is the goal of RRF, the county parks department, and ROMP to improve the streambank and water-quality issues, while still providing a quality destination for dogs and their owners to enjoy the rugged nature of the park.

Overuse has damaged trails in the dog park.

Through this grant funding, the key players are working with R.A. Smith National to create a site-restoration plan, which will allow portions of the site to “rest” while focusing users’ attention on other newly improved areas.

“The planning phase of this project has helped build a foundation for sustainable implementation,” says Theresa Morgan, conservation specialist with RRF.

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