Turtle Park (~4 acres) is located at a lovely bend in the river – a transition between the hardscape downtown Riverwalk and the 800-acre natural river valley upstream! Also the southern entrance to the Greenway, Turtle Park has become a destination for greater public access to the river and its adjacent greenspaces. RRF has our offices here, a presence in the neighborhood, a gathering place for events and volunteers, the home of Kiwanis Landing and link to the Beerline Loop trails.
The “wheelhouse” property was acquired in 2009; 2.8 acres for $1.4 million with WDNR stewardship funds, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s Greenseams, and many other foundations, corporate, and individual donations. The abandoned building was demolished and parking lots removed in 2010 to transform the site to wildlife habitat.
This once blighted commercial space is now a lively urban natural area that attracts all sorts of wildlife: red-tailed and cooper’s hawks; tree swallows (breeding); migratory birds and waterfowl; coyote; chickadees (nesting); soft shell, map, painted and red eared sliders; northern leopard frogs; butler and common garter snakes; and brown dekay snakes. For a complete list of bird species that can be observed at Turtle Park, check out the hotspot on ebird.org, and enter your observations during your visit too!
In 2014, the “Lazenby” parcel was acquired as part of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum project and added to Turtle Park; .5 acres for $425,000 that used a land donation as match for a WDNR stewardship grant. Extensive shoreline and habitat restoration has been completed; the house was converted to RRF offices and the building is a demonstration project with a green roof and solar panels.
We are working to remove invasive species, create habitat amenities, and establish a resilient savanna plant community. Savannas once covered 10% of the state and currently less than .01% remain. Transforming the site to savanna showcases a now rare but once prevalent plant community and has become habitat for many wildlife species reliant on this type of landscape.
The shrub-car community along the river helps filter stormwater runoff and improve water quality. A planted future riparian forest is working toward controlling the invasive reed canary grass population.
Turtle Park is a hotspot for many urban nature enthusiasts–hikers, birders, paddlers, yogis and anglers! Visit Turtle Park’s Kiwanis Landing to launch your canoe and/or kayak – paddle to Lake Michigan and return back to enjoy a picnic no matter what your adventure!
There is a short ADA trail-loop.
RRF utilizes this land management practice in Turtle Park which allows the prairie and wildlife species to thrive. Fire has been used by Indigenous Native Americans as a land management tool for a long time. Indigenous people found value in burning the land since it cleared the old thatch and made it easier to traverse, it improved the landscape and habitat as it attracted game and increased the yield of harvest with more fruit and nuts from native plant species. Today, land managers use this native practice of prescribed burns to restore balance within prairies, wetlands, savannas and some woodlands.
There are countless benefits to burning natural habitats. Some benefits include the suppression of non-native woody species, the growth promotion of native deep-rooted prairie plants, allows slow-growing conservative species to have more opportunity to grow. Fire can provide nutrients to the soil like nitrogen and carbon, and it can extend the growing season resulting in higher yields of fruits and nuts. Fire is ultimately an organic and cost-effective land management tool compared to chemical applications or mowing. To read our full document about the history and benefits of prescribed burns, click the button below!
Record your bird sightings at Turtle Park on eBird