Discover the Area of Concern

Today in Cleveland, Ohio, professional water advocates and managers from around the Great Lakes are gathering at the annual Area of Concern (AOC) conference. The Milwaukee Estuary is one of over 40 areas so designated due to historic industrial contamination that requires major cleanup efforts to make the water “swimmable and fishable” again.

Never heard of Milwaukee’s AOC? Check out the video overview above. Then explore the many types of projects—habitat, sediment, fish passage, and more—making a difference in the Milwaukee Community Map. Open the map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, then select the “Fishable & Swimmable!” Deeper Dive and toggle through the many layers and click on the points of interest.

In other news, this weekend is the annual Maker Faire! This year’s free event, formerly held at State Fair Park, is downtown at the Wisconsin Center. Reflo will be there with our Virtual Water Table and the Milwaukee Community Map on a big screen. Join us for family-friendly fun for all!

Discover the Harbor District

We’re looking forward to Harbor Fest this Sunday, Sept. 8, and hope you can join the community for a fun day out. We’re particularly excited about seeing the new Harbor View Plaza at the east end of Greenfield Avenue—this promises a new public access point down to the water in the core of Milwaukee’s Harbor District.

Have you heard of the Harbor District? Have you read the Harbor District Water & Land Use Plan that is to guide redevelopment at the meeting of Milwaukee’s three rivers? Check out the video tour above for an overview of some of the transformations, plus the vision for the future of this dynamic area.

Then explore more at the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop. Toggle on the “Harbor District” Deeper Dive and check out areas that the Water & Land Use Plan call for adding parks, riverwalks, and bike ways. Imagine what the former Solvay Coke parcel could look like after Komatsu’s headquarters relocate to this keystone property.

Discover Historic Waterways

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Before Wisconsin became a state in 1848, it was territory mapped by federal land surveyors preparing for public land sales. Surveying the land into a grid of square townships and subdivided plots encouraged speculation, settlement, and development following widespread displacement of Native Americans. The Milwaukee area was initially surveyed in 1835, with more work in 1836 and 1837. (Ever notice how there are major arterial streets roughly every mile apart? This is a legacy of the surveyors’ gridlines.)

The maps and field notes from these surveys provide invaluable historical context about Milwaukee’s geography, hydrology, and ecology prior to urban development. Thanks to the mapping team at MMSD, who adapted a digital layer from the maps held by the Wisconsin Commissioner of Public Lands, you can now explore where surveyors noted historic waterways in our area. You’ll notice many more tributaries into the three major rivers, as well as areas denoted as wetlands, marsh, or swamp. Over time many of these areas were filled with land and many of the river channels straightened.

Access the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, then toggle on the Basemaps section and fill in the circle by “Historic Water Maps.” There are two layers. The first is from the 1830s federal land surveys described above. The second is from roughly 60 years later based on USGS surveys. Can you find where waterways used to be near your home or neighborhood?

Discover Historic Water Recreation

Have you been to one of our beaches along Lake Michigan yet this summer? Did you know that Bradford Beach, Lincoln Memorial Drive, Veterans Park, and the Summerfest Grounds were all constructed on what used to be lakebed? They were all filled in with land.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, before Milwaukeeans went down to our lakefront beaches in droves, they congregated in and along the Milwaukee River upstream of the former North Avenue Dam. Check out the video overview above to see where there used to be swimming schools along the river’s banks.

To explore more, access the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop. Toggle on the "Historic Water Recreation” Deeper Dive, then click on the features of interest to learn more. There are also nifty place-based links to video segments of A City Built on Water, the film by John Gurda and Claudia Looze.

Discover Swimming Pools & Pads

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Summer is the best time for swimming in Milwaukee—it’s hot outside and fun to splash around with friends in cool water. Do you know the public swimming pool closest to you? Is your family aware of the many splash pads and wading pools across Milwaukee County? Have you been to one of own water parks at the Lincoln Park, Hoyt Park, Greenfield Park, or Kozy?

Check out the pools and pads in your neighborhood by accessing the Milwaukee Community Map. Open the map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, then fill in the circle by “UW Sea Grant — Exploring Swimming Access” under the Our Water Stories section. Click on each icon for more details about indoor and outdoor pools, splash pads and wading pools, and water parks.

Discover the Urban Water Trail

The second annual Cream City Classic swimming race is scheduled for this Saturday, Aug. 10. If the weather holds, it should be an amazing morning to watch swimmers pulse through the Milwaukee River!

Due to improvements in water quality in recent years, Milwaukee’s waterways are witnessing a renaissance as an entertainment and recreation destination—swimming, boating, beachgoing, fishing, and more! Check out all the places you can access the water by exploring the Urban Water Trail courtesy of our friends at Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

The video above provides an overview. To explore more, access the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, then toggle on the “Deeper Dive” labeled “Urban Water Trail.” Toggle through features organized by area or amenities, and check out suggested paddling day trips right in the City of Milwaukee! Just double-click to zoom to each route.

Discover Jones Island History

This weekend is the annual Kaszube picnic on Jones Island at Milwaukee’s smallest park. Do you know the Kaszubes? Do you know the story of Jones Island? Are you curious why what is actually a peninsula is called an island?

Today Jones Island is home to an industrial port and sewage treatment plant, but it was once home to a vibrant fishing village where an immigrant community of Kaszubes filled the swampy land for fishing shanties, homes, saloons, and even a school. Learn more about the dramatic historic transformations along our freshwater coast by checking out the video above.

Explore more by accessing the Jones Island “Deeper Dive” by opening the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop. Fill in the circle button by “Jones Island” and then click the points of interest to explore different historic features in the interactive map.

Discover Our City of Neighborhoods

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Events like the Riverwest 24, German Fest, and all the summer festivals remind us that Milwaukee is a City of Neighborhoods with immigrant identities woven into the fabric of our culture. Do you know the stories of our neighborhoods? How did Pigsville get its name? Where was Milwaukee’s “Little Italy”? What does “Harambee” mean?

We collaborated with historian John Gurda and Historic Milwaukee, Inc. to create an interactive companion to the popular book Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods. Check it out through the Milwaukee Community Map.

Once you have accessed the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, find the “City of Neighborhoods” layer under the section called Basemaps. Fill in its circle to turn it on, then click on each neighborhood shape to see a preview paragraph on its story and each colorful poster created by Jan Kotowitz. You can toggle on/off “Our Water Stories” layers on top of this basemap to see which neighborhoods feature different water-related projects.

Discover Green Luminaries

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On this day nine years ago, intense rain led to flooding that claimed one young man's life and caused over $30 million in damage to Milwaukee County. Streets turned into rivers deep enough for canoes, over 4,000 homes flooded, and a sinkhole at Oakland and North avenues swallowed an SUV. Meterologist John Malan reported that over 6 inches of rain fell in just one hour! The damage from the July 22, 2010 storm, however, inspired many Milwaukeeans to invest in green infrastructure.

In our first post highlighting the many amazing things you can discover through the Milwaukee Community Map, we invite you to explore the public, private, and community folks that MMSD has highlighted as "Green Luminaries" for their projects including green infrastructure to absorb stormwater where it falls. Check out the Milwaukee Community Map here!

Once you have accessed the Milwaukee Community Map in Google Earth Pro on Desktop, find the “MMSD — Honoring Green Luminaries” story under Our Water Stories. Click on each heron icon to see one of MMSD’s 42 short videos highlighting these projects. Use the map to discover where these water leaders are and toggle on/off different basemaps to explore different relationships.