Friday, April 19, 2019

Activists want Kletzsch Park history, oaks preserved

The Journal Sentinel explains the pressures forcing Milwaukee County to rethink proposed changes in popular Kletzsch Park which could subject some pre-Civil War-era oak trees to the chainsaw.
In the 19th century, the site drew the attention of Increase Lapham, a naturalist and engineer — considered Wisconsin’s first scientist — who surveyed the oak savanna that once dominated the landscape. 

Martha Bergland, an opponent of the county’s initial design, is co-author with Paul Hayes of “Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham,” a 2014 biography published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. 

Bergland believes that some of the oak trees that would be lost would have been living in 1850 when Lapham recorded his observations of effigy mounds built by Native Americans. “It’s a historically significant area,” Bergland said. “It was known to be a ceremonial important place.”
The Milwaukee River runs through the park in suburban Glendale north of the City of Milwaukee and draws anglers, hikers and birders, among others.

Bergland and naturalist Jim Uhrinak had posted a comprehensive review of the issues on photographer-blogger Eddee Daniel's "A Wealth of Nature" site, here.

The proposed removal of six old oak trees is a needless destruction of a natural element on this site as valuable as the river. This set of oak trees is the savanna fringe of Indian Prairie recorded in this place by Increase Lapham in 1850 (see map below). Do we really have so little imagination and foresight, time or money that we have to destroy these ancient living beings and the bluff they stand on when there are other possibilities for the fish passage?  Would we really rather have a hard-edged party platform with a view across a ditch than these irreplaceable open-grown oaks?
We are asking that what Aldo Leopold called an “ecological conscience” be brought to bear in redirecting the fish passage proposal. Presenting this current plan as if there is a forced choice between the trees and the fish passage is wrong. 
Intelligent and imaginative engineering plans can be made not at the expense of, but in the service of nature. Aldo Leopold asks us to not be “intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits.” The wrong action, Leopold continues, “is not to be condoned because it pays.”[1]We are all citizens, Leopold tells us, of the land-community, as are the trees and the fish
Not only are the trees an essential part of the natural system, but without the trees, the mysterious and romantic character of the dam overlook is destroyed. One of the reasons we are drawn to this spot and to others in the natural world (and to well-designed gardens) is that we find there a sense of mystery and of romance because all is not revealed at once.  
We delight in discovery. 
Even though we may not be aware of it, when we come along the Milwaukee River Parkway and see those old oaks we know we have arrived at a place different from any other place in the city and perhaps the county. 
Those craggy trees ceremonially preside as we slow and stop and get out of the car or walk into their shade at the edge of the bluff. Beyond the trees we glimpse patterns of light and shade, the sheen of sunlight on the pool above the dam and foaming energy of the river. Perhaps without realizing it, we are drawn as much by the trees to this place as by the river. Trees like these are rare in our urban and suburban lives, as rare as rivers. 
Bergland, also known for her novels and short stories, has also posted a new piece at Urban Milwaukee about the need for park preservation:
Some of the 10 bur oaks near the dam have been there more than 200 years. They have witnessed more than we ever could. We are, of course, using a metaphor—what these trees must have seen!—to aid and allow our imagining, to acknowledge the people who have been here before us. 
The struggle over the fate of Kletszch Park echos preservation activity to save what remains of Sanctuary Woods and the County Grounds, and an entire nature preserve adjoining Kohler Andrae State Park, among other grassroots efforts.
People care about trees - - even just one.
And in today's fast-paced and stressed world they may care even more because there's published evidence that walking in nature among trees, aside from the pleasant timeout, is measurably good for your physical and mental health, as The New York Times put it:
How walking in Nature Changes the Brain
In other words, trees aren't just connected to the soil and wetlands to get us the water we need for life, and which are a bulwark against a warming climate and violent weather. They and we are interconnected - - and even our brains are involved - -  so be smart and honor it.
Or as the Wisconsin Supreme Court put it decades ago when it affirmed the legality and wisdom of the Public Trust Doctrine:
"A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist."
All of which reminds me: did Foxconn save the centuries-old bur oaks which its ever-changing-and-shrinking 'plan' had threatened?

Acorns on a bur oak


Minnesconsin Tom said...

“They took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museum. They charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ‘em. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Joni Mitchell’s classic song has stood the test of time because no truer words were ever written.

Anonymous said...

Should never destroy for a stupid house.
The trees are 3-500 yrs old.
Destroy the park so your children have nothing left
That we grew up with

Anonymous said...

A little something from Longfellow:

Eliot's Oak
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thou ancient oak! whose myriad leaves are loud
With sounds of unintelligible speech,
Sounds as of surges on a shingly beach,
Or multitudinous murmurs of a crowd;
With some mysterious gift of tongues endowed,
Thou speakest a different dialect to each;
To me a language that no man can teach,
Of a lost race, long vanished like a cloud.
For underneath thy shade, in days remote,
Seated like Abraham at eventide
Beneath the oaks of Mamre, the unknown
Apostle of the Indians, Eliot, wrote
His Bible in a language that hath died
And is forgotten, save by thee alone.