At the heart of the Urban Ecology Center you'll always find a community striving for change. Whether the issue is safety, preservation, education or just neighbors connecting to each other - working with people with this much energy is hard to resist.
The Urban Ecology Center (UEC) was born from a neighborhood's collective effort to tackle issues in Riverside Park. The neglected park had become plagued with crime, litter, and invasive plants. In 1991, local residents joined forces, envisioning a shift from problems to education. They started by organizing cleanups and using the park to teach nature and science to nearby students.
The Riverside Park branch, initially operating from a trailer, established a new community and education center in 2004. This facility, recognized for its design, featured specialized classrooms for school programs, along with spaces for community gatherings and activities.
Recognizing the citywide need for outdoor learning, UEC expanded to Washington Park. After identifying specific criteria for an ideal location, including accessibility, community interest, and potential impact on crime rates, the Washington Park branch opened in 2007. In 2021, UEC engaged the community to reimagine this branch, commencing its rebuild in 2023.
The Menomonee Valley branch emerged from a partnership with the Menomonee Valley Partners, aiming to revitalize the area into an ecological and cultural hub. As part of the broader "Menomonee Valley - From The Ground Up" project, UEC's branch opened in 2012, transforming a vacant tavern into an environmentally focused community center within the Three Bridges Park.
Throughout its journey, the UEC has evolved from a grassroots effort to reclaim a neglected park to a multi-branch organization, symbolizing a collective commitment to environmental education and community engagement.
Below is a short documentary was created by youth volunteer Serbata Tarrer for our Summer Solstice Soiree event in honor of the 10th year of our Riverside Park green facility.
The photo above is the original Urban Ecology Center location in Riverside Park. It was a used, double-wide trailer that had two rooms and no running water.