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Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’

BY ADAM REGN ARVIDSON, FASLA

Milwaukee cleans up the Menomonee Valley but keeps it working.

Milwaukee cleans up the Menomonee Valley but keeps it working.

From the April 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Menomonee means wild rice, and that is the original story of this river. Flowing just 33 miles across southeastern Wisconsin, it joins with two other smallish rivers (the Milwaukee and the Kinnickinnic) just before Lake Michigan to create a freshwater estuary—a back bay to the great lake. The estuary and valley were hunting, fishing, and rice harvesting grounds. Then European settlers came and saw this could also be a good spot for shipping, fixing, and building things.

The Valley, as it is often called, is a four-mile by one-half-mile swath of Menomonee River lowland that industrialized rapidly in the late 1800s. It became home to the great Milwaukee Road’s machine and repair shops—140 acres of railyards and mechanic sheds. In the first half of the 20th century, a middle-class resident of the neighborhoods north and south of the Valley could walk to a job that paid a living wage. Crossing the pedestrian bridges to the railyard, he would likely barely notice the stagnant, channelized, trash-strewn watercourse below.

In the 1980s, following a storyline familiar among midsized cities in the Midwest, the industries began to leave—and leave their messes behind. The Valley became a 1,200-acre scar on the city. “It was buildings that were falling down. It was environmental contamination. It was 60,000 cars driving by on the freeway looking at this property,” says Dave Misky, who has been leading the Valley’s (more…)

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BY PHILIP WALSH

A new cash crop is shifting the contours of Wisconsin's countryside.

A new cash crop is shifting the contours of Wisconsin’s countryside.

From the March 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Two saucers full of sand sit on my desk. One contains a heathery mix of grains that I scooped up from L Street Beach in South Boston. It’s a blend of dark, light, and medium stone, mostly quartz weathered from the granite mountains of New Hampshire. Viewed at a distance it’s just gray. The coastal sands of southern New England were originally washed down by glacial floodwaters when the Laurentide Ice Sheet began to retreat about 20,000 years ago. Sand is dynamic, particularly when acted upon by the ocean. And indeed, the effect of water on stone is the very genesis of sand. The action of millennia of waves and currents reshapes the grains themselves. This sand is “semiangular”: The grains are irregular and somewhat sharp edged, although the occasional near sphere of transparent quartz does crop up now and again, as I peer at it through a 10x loupe. It is very young sand.

The second dish of sand is quite another matter. It’s an even golden color, reminiscent of straw or lightly done toast. The grains are on the whole much finer than the beach sand, and even without magnification they have a remarkable consistency, almost a silky quality. Under the loupe the grains are almost all rounded, most nearly spherical. The saucer also holds several large lumps of aggregated sand, still damp when I collected them at a mine operated by Fairmount Santrol at Menomonie, Wisconsin. This is sandstone from the Wonewoc Formation, and the mine was originally prospected by a nearby glassmaking company. Some of the sand from this site still ends up as windows. When I gathered these lumps of sand at the quarry, still moist, the stone had the consistency of halvah and readily crumbled into a heap of the distinctive, fine golden grains. Now that the sample has dried it behaves more like the sandstone it is. The Wonewoc sandstone dates to the early Cambrian Period, about 500 million years ago. It was smoothed into its typical roundness and sorted into beds by the actions of shallow seas that lapped the shores of supercontinents that predate even Pangaea, the breakup of which continues to shape our globe. This sand is so old that the tides that refined it were governed by a shorter day and a year 400 days long. It is unthinkably ancient.

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