From Brownfield to Green Space

A new park offers hope for Wisconsin’s Menomonee Valley.

Photo of students planting seedlings

Students plant seedlings to help turn a 24-acre brownfield in Milwaukee, Wis., into a park as part of Seeds for the Future, a program of Menomonee Valley Partners, Inc.

Milwaukee’s industrial heritage contributed to the city’s success, but when the manufacturing boom ended, the area known as Menomonee Valley was left with contamination and abandoned buildings. “Residents suffered from limited access to jobs and recreation opportunities, high levels of asthma and obesity, and poor air quality,” write the Menomonee Valley Partners, Inc., (MVP) a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the valley.

MVP is partnering with another organization, the Urban Ecology Center (UEC), on a series of connected projects that address economic, environmental, and community needs in the valley. The projects include new bike and pedestrian trails, a new environmental education center, and the transformation of a 24-acre brownfield into a park.

University of Iowa College of Public Health alumna Kirsten Beyer, through her work with the Medical College of Wisconsin, is collaborating with MVP and UEC on a grant-funded project that seeks to understand how this new urban park and ecology center will affect knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, assets/supports, and health outcomes among neighborhood residents.

Beyer and colleagues will gather baseline information on children’s health behaviors and outcomes, children’s knowledge and attitudes about outdoor play in green spaces and health, and geographical patterns of neighborhood quality.

An important aspect of the project is community engagement. The project team will invite community members to participate as data collectors in the neighborhood mapping and assessment activity, work with local classrooms in the evaluation of health and wellness, and share information through community forums.

“We plan to make decisions as a partnership. The project evolves as it needs to in order to address problems identified. That’s the goal of community engaged research,” says Beyer.

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