Volunteer Gardeners are Vital to Prairie Restoration

Year after year, more native grasses and flowering plants take root at Lakeshore State Park and fewer invasive plants thrive. That’s not by accident. Prairie restoration requires constant diligence – and digging and planting. Without volunteers to do this work, the thistle and Queen Anne’s lace might still be winning.

The Milwaukee Art Museum Garden Club’s “Prairie Pals” are an essential part of that effort. Beginning with the park’s annual spring planting, the club musters volunteers who regularly put on their gardening gloves and get to work.

“We’re so fortunate to have the club’s involvement,” said David Wenstrup, Friends of Lakeshore State Park President. “Consistent, dedicated effort is what it takes to do this work, and they’re fully committed to the mission.” After David helped the group out a few times, he decided to become a Garden Club member himself.

Anyone is welcome to join the Prairie Pals starting May 5 and continuing every other Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. as they fill bag after bag with invasive weeds. You can come whenever you like, and you don’t have to be a Garden Club member – see the Park Supervisor Update for how to register to volunteer.

Helen Dahms and Grant Kniedler, who coordinate the Lakeshore State Park volunteers for the Garden Club, say that gardeners understand how important native species are for migratory birds, insects and other wildlife. But the volunteers benefit, too. “It’s a wonderful way to get some fresh air and camaraderie and also do some public service,” says Helen.

Grant calls it “a nice chance to be social in a productive way,” and he’s proud to have a role in sustaining a beautiful place. “I think it’s important to create a pleasant environment for the citizens of Milwaukee.”

Garden Club members have been volunteering at Lakeshore State Park since 2018, coming from throughout the metro Milwaukee area to help. Some have their own gardens at home, and others are apartment-dwellers who appreciate an opportunity to work in the soil.

“It is just such a beautiful setting.  To go down there and have the lake, the Summerfest grounds, the city skyline and the art museum — you can’t beat it.”

~ Helen Dahms

Milwaukee Art Museum Garden Club
The Milwaukee Art Museum Garden Club’s “Prairie Pals” at the end of a productive weed-pulling effort.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum Garden Club