Urban Ecologist

We’re on the top level of the tower at the Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park branch, clear views of Downtown to the south and the new Rotary Centennial Arboretum to the west. Ken Leinbach, the center’s executive director, has just shoveled in his lunch. “When you’re up here, you get a different perspective,” he says.  He points to the northeast, to the park he built when he first started out. (“Just me and a toad in a trailer,” he jokes.) To encourage children to come from that park to the Urban Ecology building, a series of three sculptures dubbed Walk…

We’re on the top level of the tower at the Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park branch, clear views of Downtown to the south and the new Rotary Centennial Arboretum to the west. Ken Leinbach, the center’s executive director, has just shoveled in his lunch. “When you’re up here, you get a different perspective,” he says. 

He points to the northeast, to the park he built when he first started out. (“Just me and a toad in a trailer,” he jokes.) To encourage children to come from that park to the Urban Ecology building, a series of three sculptures dubbed Walk Like a River was installed.

And then he looks to the southwest, where a stone arch marks the entrance to the arboretum. He pauses. He swings his gaze around to the sculptures. “I never thought of this.” The arch might be perfectly in line with the three sculptures. “I think it is!”

But he isn’t surprised. He has some theories about these sorts of things, about the cosmology of life. “Wanna hear ’em?” he asks.

So he begins to talk about living a purposeful, present life and how one achieves those things. “These sorts of things happen when you’re in the flow,” he says. These sorts of things being miracles – supremely natural events, he calls them.

In between the center and the entrance to the arboretum is a lot full of decrepit building materials and crumbling brick walls. That, he says, will be part of the center’s newest project. But he can’t reveal what it is. “It’ll be announced in January.”

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Abby Callard was an assistant editor at Milwaukee Magazine from 2012-2014. Her journalistic pursuits have seen her covering the Hispanic community in mid-Missouri, politics in Washington, D.C., art and culture for Smithsonian magazine, the social enterprise space in India and health care in Chicago. Abby has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.