Cheers to 50 Years!

Wehr Nature Center is celebrating our
50th Anniversary (1974-2024) this year.
We can’t wait to celebrate with you!

A Place for all Seasons, A Place for Everyone.

Explore more than five miles of nature trails through woodland, wetland, prairie and oak savanna on 220 acres of protected land in Whitnall Park at Wehr Nature Center.

Let’s hear from the kids!

In celebration of Wehr’s 50th anniversary, we asked kids what Wehr and the world will look like in another 50 years.

Wehr Nature Center

Through The Years


Land is purchased to create Whitnall Park

During forty years of service on the Milwaukee County Park Commission, Whitnall was instrumental in the purchase and reservation of the 660-acre park which surrounds the Wehr Nature Center, as well as the 3,266-acre Root River Parkway adjoining Whitnall Park.


Alfred Boerner plans Whitnall Park

Development of Whitnall Park was guided by Alfred L. Boerner, county landscape architect who believed that a park should be educational, and stressed the importance of nature study within Whitnall Park’s woods and meadows.


Civilian Conservation Corps shapes Whitnall Park

During the 1930’s there was a CCC Camp of some 300 men established in Whitnall Park. This crew planted trees, created lagoons such as Mallard Lake, built bridges, roads, and the area at Wehr known as the waterfall. The park you see today is their legacy.


First nature trail created

Nature programming started at Wehr long before the building was built. Whitnall Park Superintendent John Voigt directed student Phil Whitford to construct a Nature Hiking Trail that is still part of our trail system today.


Plans for Wehr Nature Center are drawn, prairie planted

Alfred Boerner’s dream of having a nature center in Whitnall Park came a step closer as plans for the building were developed by County Parks Landscape Planner Robert Mikula in 1964. Wehr’s Tallgrass Prairie was created as a research project by now Professor Phil Whitford and Boerner botanist Arthur Ode. Seed was collected from Curtis Prairie in Madison, rows planted, and an old farm field was transformed into a diverse prairie. In 1972, John Doyne formally secured $200,000 from the Todd Wehr Foundation Inc. and matching funds through federal and state grants to allow for construction of the Visitor Center to take place.


Harold Rock Becomes The First Director of WNC

Harold Rock leads the Nature Center’s development and is instrumental in building Wehr’s volunteer system. He establishes a group of teaching naturalists, the Wheel-and-Chip Society (a group that builds and maintains our trails), and popular programs like Wednesday Nights at Wehr and the Senior Citizens Nature Club.


Dedication Day

Construction is completed in the spring of 1974. County Executive John Doyne, who had worked been part of the Whitnall Park CCC crew as a young man, dedicates the new environmental education center on June 14, 1974. Educational programming begins and grows quickly serving area youth.


Trail System is Complete, Nature Education Programs Grow

The Woodland, Wetland and Prairie trails are completed thanks to the hard work of county laborers and high school aged scouts. The Wetland Trail boardwalk is built from seating planks from old County Stadium. Alongside trail improvements, Wehr’s education programs grew quickly. Alongside the leadership of Paul Brings who was hired in 1977 as Wehr’s Environmental Education Director, thousands of school children participated in nature-based programs at Wehr.

The Wetland Trail boardwalk under construction.
Paul shared his love for nature with children of all ages.


Mariette Nowak Becomes Wehr’s Director

Mariette Nowak takes over for the retiring Harold Rock. She would oversee a major renovation and addition to the building, expand programs, and worked diligently to protect Wehr’s natural areas. Mariette was an early supporter of the natural landscaping movement and in retirement wrote “Birdscaping in the Midwest”.

Mariette in front of the original building reception desk.


Friends of Wehr is formed as the nonprofit partner of the nature center

The Friends of Wehr, a 501(c3) non-profit, was formed to provide financial and volunteer support for Wehr’s growing programs. Between the nearly 40 year stretch, a series of upgrades were made to the center including the first permanent outdoor signage (2002).


Nature In The Parks Begins Programs

As Wehr grew, many field trip requests had to be turned away due to space limitations. Nature in the Parks was formed to expand Wehr’s nature programs out into other Milwaukee County Parks. It was developed and operated as a partnership with U.W. Cooperative Extension.

NIP Naturalists Pat Fojut, Carol Howard, Carol Majerowski and Mary Gaub perform a puppet show at Falk Park.


Deb McRae Become Nature Center Director

Deb loves sharing nature with children.


Growth of the Center and Renewed Vision

Over the years, many upgrades took place to meet the growing needs to expand under the renewed vision to be “A Place for All Seasons, A Place for Everyone.” Site improvements took place in partnership with Milwaukee County Parks and numerous community gifts through the Friends of Wehr Nature Center. These included an addition to the Gardner Room (1992), installation of Warbler Bridge (2008, pictured), creation of an Early Childhood Playspace (2010, pictured), upgraded benches and pavers in the amphitheater (2015) and, a new accessible pier (2020).

The Annual Report

The team at Wehr Nature Center works closely with Milwaukee County Parks and the Friends of Wehr and have combined forces to present the 2023 Annual Report.

Some highlights from 2023

Wehr Nature Center

Our Team

Carly Hintz headshot

Carly Hintz

Wehr Nature Center Director

Howard Aprill headshot

Howard Aprill

Naturalist/Adult Education & Community Science Coordinator

Emily Brown headshot

Emily Brown

Naturalist/Access & Inclusion Coordinator

Bev Bryant headshot

Bev Bryant

Naturalist/School Programs Coordinator

Mary Gaub headshot

Mary Gaub

Volunteer & Outreach Program Coordinator

Brooke Gilley headshot

Brooke Gilley

Naturalist/Interpretive Media Coordinator

Holly Walz headshot

Holly Walz

Naturalist/Veterans & Scout Programs Coordinator

Jeff Veglahn headshot

Jeff Veglahn

Land Manager

Breeann Behrendt headshot

Breeann Behrendt

Office Manager

Justin Propp headshot

Justin Propp

Facility & Grounds Maintenance

Andy Karpek headshot

Andy Karpek

Facility & Grounds Maintenance

Jan Alexander headshot

Jan Alexander

Visitor Services

Sarah Stokes headshot

Sarah Stokes

Visitor Services

Carol Howard headshot

Carol Howard

Seasonal Naturalist