The mission of Groundwork Milwaukee (GWM) is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships that empower people, businesses and organizations to promote environmental, economic and social well-being.
GWM is part of the Groundwork USA network of independent, not-for-profit, environmental businesses called Groundwork Trusts. Locally organized and controlled, Groundwork Trusts provide cost effective project development services focused on improving their communities’ environment, economy, and quality of life.
Each Trust represents a strong partnership between government, business, foundations, community groups, and residents. Projects serve a common agenda and are designed to accomplish other goals, such as job training and environmental education. All projects and activities of Groundwork are carried out through a creative mix of staff and volunteers to leverage resources and engage businesses and residents in the transformation of their own communities.
As an outgrowth of a program developed by the National Park Service, the Groundwork programs in the U.S. evolved from a model developed in the U.K. The first Groundwork Trust was founded in 1982 in England to meet the needs to revitalize abandoned industrial sites in northern England. Since then, the Groundwork UK organization has grown into a network of fifty-two locally based groups. This committed network became a highly successful private-public-community partnership that combined all resources necessary to take abandoned, run-down areas and reclaim them as open spaces with an emphasis on recreation, beautification, and economic development. Currently, there are 50 "Groundwork Trusts" in the U.K.
In 1996, the National Park Service imported this successful program into three pilot communities, Bridgeport, CT., Lawrence, MA., and Providence, RI. Since that point in time, the program has expanded into more in-need cities.
In November of 2002, Milwaukee Community Service Corps, the Wisconsin Field Office of the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Program along with a number of other local organizations, agencies, and individuals formed a small committee to discuss the possibility of establishing a Groundwork Trust in Milwaukee. In September 2003, Milwaukee, WI was designated a Groundwork USA Pilot Community. With this designation, the Groundwork Milwaukee Steering Committee received funds and technical assistance from the NPS and EPA to prepare a Feasibility Study and Strategic Plan assessing whether or not Groundwork was appropriate for our community. The strategic plan was approved in late 2005 and an Executive Director was hired in January of 2006. In March of 2007, Groundwork Milwaukee received its official 501 (c)(3) status.
Since 2007, Groundwork Milwaukee has been working on a variety of different projects throughout the City of Milwaukee. We have played a major role in the redevelopment of the KK Rivershed since it was named one of the top ten most endangered rivers in the country, working with community and municipal groups to revitalize the watershed. Groundwork has also been leading the way in youth employment programs in the city focused on green infrastructure projects as well as maintaining and building community gardens.
2013 was an important year, as Groundwork Milwaukee merged with Milwaukee Urban Gardens, a non-profit organization that had managed dozens of community gardens throughout the city. We have continued to grow the Milwaukee Urban Garden Network with over 90 gardens throughout Milwaukee that are exclusively run by community leaders and volunteers we have partnered with.
2014 was the first year of a new pilot program that expanded our Green Team to include an age group of young adults (ages 18-25) from Metcalfe Park. The program was made possible through partnerships with the City of Milwaukee, community groups, and the generosity of local foundations.
- GWM has completed more than 284 projects
- GWM has planted 4,487 trees
- GWM has planted 1,433 shrubs
- GWM has planted 28,642 bulbs and perennials
- GWM has cleaned up, conserved or restored 20,272 sq. ft. of riparian habitat
- GWM has actively involved 1,765 youth, 2,558 adults, and 165 seniors (ages 60+)
- GWM has acquired more than 9,136 volunteer hours
- GWM has partnered with 30 schools
- 203,163 individuals benefit from our projects and programs
- GWM maintains 90 sites