River Trail Schools Urban Forest

River Trails School Urban Forest

River Trail School of Agriculture and Science, a school within the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system, caters to a diverse community of approximately 400 K-8 students located on the Northwest side of Milwaukee. Renowned for its commitment to fostering excellence in agricultural sciences education from kindergarten through eighth grade, River Trail School stands as a pioneering force within the city. Here, young minds are provided with a unique and invaluable gateway to explore career pathways in agriculture that are typically overshadowed in an urban upbringing. Students study food production and the business of agriculture through curriculum and activities that integrate a pollinator garden, raised garden beds, an 80-foot-long hoop house, three hydroponics machines, a pumpkin patch, and a compost program.

River Trail Schools received funding from the Fresh Coast Protection Partnership (FCPP), a community-based partnership between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and Corvias, to take this non-traditional agriculture program one step further by designing a self-supporting Urban Forest on school grounds.

To transform the project from a vision into a tangible reality, GRAEF provided civil engineering, landscape architecture, stormwater engineering, survey, and environmental engineering. The design and scope of the project included planting a forest of chestnut, Asian pear, and hazelnut tree species. A series of berms and swales were created to improve stormwater management and provide a water supply for the fruit and nut trees planted on the berms. The swales and berms create natural drainage for stormwater runoff to be captured, stored, and infiltrated, providing a source of water for the trees and shrubs to be planted along the berms. The stormwater runoff will support over 100 trees and shrubs and the entire system is designed to capture, treat, and temporarily store over 176,000 gallons of stormwater every time it rains. This project will bring a decimating field alongside the exterior of the school to come back to life.

“This project shows students how problems become solutions,” said River Trail Principal Robin Swan. “They will see firsthand how stormwater management can not only reduce runoff but support our forest in producing food such as fruit and nuts.”

MPS Students lifted saplings into holes in the lawn, the first of over 100 fruit and nut trees that will create the forest and provide the students the hands-on experiences that will expose them to strategies and techniques in permaculture they can take with them into high school, college and throughout the rest of their lives.

Other Projects

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University of Wisconsin Whitewater Ma'iingan Hall:CNP

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Marquette University O'Brien Hall

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Milwaukee Athletic Club

Milwaukee Athletic Club


Milwaukee, WI


GRAEF Services

Landscape Architecture

Civil Engineering

Stormwater Design

River Trails School Urban Forest Contacts

Joe Pepitone

Joe Pepitone

Practice Area Leader - Landscape Architecture, Senior Landscape Architect
Ben Langemeier

Ben Langemeier

Civil Engineer