A Decade of Growth: the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum

Written by Michelle Milford
    Monday, 25 September 2023
A Decade of Growth: the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum

Ten years ago, on September 28, 2013, the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum opened. Totaling 40 acres of restored land, the arboretum winds along the Milwaukee River and Oak Leaf trail expanding into Riverside Park.

With a generous lead gift from Milwaukee Rotarians, the dedication of partner organizations, and the support of our community, the last un-damned, but unfortunately degraded, stretch of the Milwaukee River was transformed into a thriving urban nature space loved by all Milwaukeans. 

Arboretum ROOTCountless hours of hard work - controlling invasive species, removing trash, planting native species, monitoring wildlife populations and so much more - has made the arboretum what it is today.

So we sing, “Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday, dear Arboretum! Happy Birthday to you!” 

iconicarchLove a birthday party? Then, join us for HKE MKE on Sunday, October 8, noon to 3pm for a 2.5 mile community hike celebrating urban nature and the Arboretum’s 10th birthday.  Cross under the iconic stone arch finish line wearing your arch t-shirt! 

In celebration of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum, we asked our staff what their favorite thing about the Arboretum is:

Jeremy R: “The Closed Bottle Gentian”

Jodi H: “Nothing much compares to standing on the benches at the top of Coyote Hill with a bunch of young elementary-aged kiddos (or middle schoolers), throwing your head back, and giving your best Coyote howl! Also, super fun to talk about the ancient architecture of the arch and its strength!” 

Chad T: “I love Coyote Hill in winter. You really get a sense of the Milwaukee River valley.”

Brynne D: “When all the Woolly Bears walk across the paths in late summer/fall. Kids LOVE them and touching and holding them.”

Amanda P: “The very obvious: being in the middle of a bustling city but feeling like you're fully immersed in nature. What a gift!” 

July Bloom Phyllis Bankier

July Bloom at the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. Photo credit: Phyllis Bankier

Chris S:  “There is frequently a community member with a recorder (musical instrument) sitting on the bench on the western slope of Coyote Hill playing really relaxing tunes.”

Regina M: “The overall beauty of the prairie flowers in late summer and fall.” 

**Coyote Hill is what the UEC staff have nicknamed the hill that crests behind the stone arch.

We’re giving our best Coyote Howl to The Rotary Club of Milwaukee and everyone who made it possible to catch a sunset on the hill, discover the beauty of a native prairie, or meet a new friend (human or not) at the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. 

Michelle Milford

Michelle Milford

Michelle is UEC's Development Communications Manager. With a degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies, she began her career as a zookeeper. An American badger remains her favorite animal - having raised one from a cub. After making some difficult professional decisions, Michelle ended up in the nonprofit sector where she’s happily stayed for 8+ years.  Having started in January 2022, she still feels incredibly lucky to be part of the UEC team - a team who, like her, cares deeply about the environment and those, both human and not, that depend on it. When she’s not at the UEC, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband, two young children and their deaf English setter. 


Email Sign-Up


* indicates required
Which Emails would you like to receive?

Connect Now

facebook instagram 2018 2 twitter linkedin

Get Involved

Hive Module