By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jan 27, 2010 at 1:02 PM

It took seven years for Kimberly Gleffe's dream to take root, but at the end of 2009, it is finally developing -- or undeveloping, in this case.

Gleffe, who is the executive director of  the River Revitalization Foundation, had a vision to create accessible green space on the bank of the Milwaukee river near Commerce Street.

Seven years ago, Gleffe and her staff  began working with the owners of Melanec's Wheelhouse Mystery Dinner Theater, 2178 N. Riverboat Rd., on a purchase agreement. Five years ago, the restaurant shuttered its doors, and the group finally bought the 2.8 acres of land, including 624 feet of river frontage, in December 2009.

This year, the group plans to have the building razed and parking lot removed and start the process of creating a riverfront park.

Gleffe says the plans include extensive habitat restoration, including the planting of native plants and trees, the creation of a habitat for endangered garter snakes, improvement of the water quality and possibly the addition of a canoe launch and access to nearby trails.

Of course, all of the plans are contingent on fundraising. The group still needs $300,000 to pay off the land. Overall, the project requires $1.6 million, but the group has already received $1.1 million in grants from the Department of Natural Resources and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

The River Revitalization Foundation was founded in 1994, and Gleffe has served as executive director for eight years. The foundation has three staff members and an 18-member board.

The foundation's mission is to establish a parkway for public access, walkways, recreation and education, bordering Milwaukee's three major rivers -- the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic. The group also wants to use the rivers to revitalize surrounding neighborhoods and to improve water quality.

Currently, the organization is launching a major fundraising campaign to raise the rest of the money needed for the project, is looking for volunteers and planning multiple community events as part of a public kick-off on or near Earth Day.

Gleffe says most of the revitalization will take place in 2011.  She acknowledges this is a long-term project, but one that's going to improve the quality of life for the 200,000 people living within a mile of the area. 

"It's adding green space in a dense urban area," says Gleffe. "It will be a respite from urban life."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.