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The Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition (MRGC) is getting ready to celebrate 15 years with the HIKE15 challenge, which will kick off on Tuesday, July 6.

In the spirit of celebrating and nature appreciation, the coalition is challenging residents to hit the 878-acre Greenway, appropriately nicknamed “Milwaukee’s Central Park,” and hike 15 miles throughout the space.

Registration is free, for individuals and teams, and miles are recorded by participants in honor system fashion, explained Kimberly Gleffe, executive director of the River Revitalization Foundation, the lead organization in the coalition.

“It’s do-it-yourself,” Gleffe said. “You can just walk with a bunch of people, keep track of your miles. We have a little map that shows approximate mileage throughout the Greenway.”

Each registered hiker is then entered into a raffle for a chance to win outdoor gear donated by local sponsors. Those who complete the challenge earn a second bonus entry.

The celebration also includes 15 weeks of community events. Some of these include bird watching and healing nature hikes along with educational content focusing on the Greenway. The hope is that these happenings bring about community engagement, Gleffe explained.

“People want to get outside, but partly we want to be offering organized, healthy activities to increase community engagement and build that ambassadorship for the river,” she said.

That concept of community engagement is a real focus for the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition, Gleffe said, and the group is happy to show residents the resources available right in Milwaukee. This space is welcoming for everyone, Gleffe said.

“With all the equity and inclusion issues that we’re facing, that’s also a major point that this place is for everyone,” she said. “It’s welcoming and everyone can access it. It’s here for the community.”

Gleffe hopes this celebration inspires more people to be voices for the river. She understands how much nature can be beneficial for people and hopes participation and education morph into support efforts.

“Ultimately, the more people get out and are aware of these places, the more they care about them, and that will help with sustainability as well,” said Gleffe.

As Milwaukee River Greenway heads into its 15th year, the coalition has achieved a lot in terms of establishment and conservation milestones, Gleffe said, and it continues its work through its collaborative masterplan.

“[There are] lots of activity and accomplishments based on that plan by all of the coalition members,” she said. “That’s ongoing. Maintenance and stewardship will probably never not be needed but every group is contributing in their geographic area and according to their mission but then we all collaborate as well.”

The HIKE15 Challenge and events kick off at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6 with the Commonwealth Cleanup in Lincoln Park, 1301 W. Hampton Ave. The challenge runs until October with registration closing Sept. 1.

More information and resources can be found on the Greenway Coalition’s website, https://sites.google.com/riverrevitalizationfoundation.org/greenway15/home.

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