Here is an on-line forum intended to provide a place for complex positions regarding the renewal and transformation of the Milwaukee River as it courses through Historic Milwaukee.

Hopefully this post, sent July 9, 2006, to a couple of thousand of Milwaukee’s “revolutionary gentry,” will spark some interest in accelerating the re-birth of the Milwaukee River and other gifts of water in our region.

Reader Provided Information re the River

These pictures are from my first “toe test” on July 9, 2006, around 3300 north, with Gordon Pl. on the West, Cambridge on the East.

I could clearly see my shoes at 2′, the deepest part of the river in this area.

Dear All,

I have talked with Vince Bushell and Sky Schultz, two of the wisest men I’ve known, both of whom have given me facts and insights that inspire a walk across the Milwaukee River today, in honor of Frank Zeidler.

I will report when I could no longer see my tennis shoes in the cleansing Milwaukee River between Capitol and North Ave.

Anyone want to plan a community wade-in in the Milwaukee River to see how deep we can see our feet?

Cleaner wading,


“I think I have a measure

That can’t be beat

You just wade out in the river

And look down to see your feet.”

“If you can’t see your cloppers

There’ll be trouble in this town

We oughta sue those upper counties

For the junk they’re sending down.”

Bernie’s Big Day:
With Bare Toes or Sneakers, It’s Time to Wade Right In

At its 10th anniversary, Bernie Fowler’s Sneaker Index has given him the most famous feet in Maryland

by Sandra Martin

At that first wade-in, visibility was down to 10 inches. By 1989, the second year of Fowler’s sneaker test, the water was so murky he could see only eight inches down.

By 1992, all the attention focused on Chesapeake Bay seemed to be turning the tide. Visibility had crept up to 18 inches.

Bernie Fowler, left, and Tom Wisner with friends at the 1993 wade-in, at right.

1993 - 1997: 16.5″

We first caught up with Bernie in 1993, when 30 people joined hands on the beach at Broomes Island and walked into the water. That year, Fowler - joined by Wisner, the much shorter U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and, as usual, Betty Brady’s fifth-grade class from Hollywood, Maryland - could spot a glimmer of his white tennis shoes while water lapped around his thighs.

In the cool, mushy sand, aquatic grass waved. A walker bent down to pluck a piece and give it to Fowler, who held it aloft triumphantly.

“The grass that the old red-headed ducks feed on is coming back,” Fowler said. “The year before last when we saw that, that’s the first that we’d seen in over 25 years. We’re beginning to see signs of it coming back. That’s very encouraging. Aquatic species like that, you can use as a measure that is a little more effective than me looking at my feet.”

The senator was pleased but cautious.

“We’ve still got a long way to go,” he said. Today is not a day to say we’ve won our battle.”

In 1994, joining Bernie was Sen. “American Joe” Miedusiewski. As well as wading, the two were running for the Democratic Party’s nomination to lead Maryland, “American Joe” as governor, Bernie as lieutenant governor.

“Sunday was a good day for a wade-in, bright and sunny. But not for good results,” said Fowler. “A Southeaster Saturday night stirred the water up. We couldn’t see below our knees.” Official visibility was 28 inches.

Peering down through the brown waters of the Patuxent River at his white sneakers in 1995, Bernie Fowler saw 12 more inches of long leg. In that watermark year, visibility rose to 40 inches.

Visibility was down a couple of inches in 1996, likely because of waves or water turbulence, but participation was up. Close to 100 joined hands and walked into the water, keeping watch on their toes.

“Forty-four and a half inches.” With those words, U.S. EPA Administrator Carol Browner announced the results of 1997′s Bernie Fowler Day.

“That’s a 20 percent improvement,” announced Congressman Steny Hoyer, who held the tape measure up to Fowler’s water-stained indigo overalls. In the crowd of nearly 200 people, about 75 actually waded into the luke-warm water.

Mingling with concerned citizens were a number of Maryland’s most familiar names. In addition to Hoyer and Browner, Maryland’s Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller showed up - although he remained dry in suit and tie, begging out due to additional commitments. Wading in alongside Fowler were Maryland comptroller Louis Goldstein, Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment Jane Nishida, as well as representatives from both Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.

Political heavy-hitters regularly join hands with Fowler to wade in, but 1997 may have marked a political watershed. “We had a power base here that is probably the largest we’ve ever had,” Fowler said.

Last edited by Godsil. Based on work by Olde Godsile.  Page last modified on July 17, 2006

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