Macomb County To Receive Grant To Restore Habitat In Sterling Heights

Mt. Clemens, MI - Macomb County has announced that it will receive a grant of $300,000 to restore and enhance natural habitat along the Sterling Relief and Red Run drains in Sterling Heights between Schoenherr Road and Metro Parkway behind Freedom HIll County Park and Bethesda Christian Church.

Awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the Sterling Relief/Red Run Drain Confluence Habitat Restoration and Trail Connector will enhance stewardship of local waterways by creating a biodiverse habitat for wildlife. 

“The transformation of the Sterling Relief Drain from an industrial-looking empty space into a greenbelt filled with Michigan native plants, trees and wildlife – including our butterfly flyway – is fully underway. The drain has been redesigned to better filter pollutants out of the water, using Mother Nature’s natural abilities. Now, we see the plants filling in and the wildlife responding. This additional funding will allow us to continue to expand this project, improving the quality of life for residents in central Sterling Heights and beyond,” said Candice S. Miller, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner. 

Once completed, the project will restore riparian habitat along 1.35 miles of the Sterling Relief and Red Run drains to increase habitat complexity and biodiversity, connect habitat corridors (Sterling Relief, Red Run, and Clinton River), benefit native pollinators, control invasive species, reduce erosion, increase riparian canopy, and develop a waterfront trail for public access. Grant activities will restore over 30 acres of diverse native habitat including 10.75 acres riparian canopy, 12.25 acres of native pollinator prairie plantings, and 2.75 acres of stream bank re-vegetation and stabilization. Actions also include treating over 20 acres for invasive species, planting 475 trees and 2,500 shrubs, developing a mile long waterfront trail connecting to the regional Freedom Trail (installed between Schoenherr Road and Metro Parkway along the north side of the Red Run Drain), and reducing runoff by 200,000 gallons per year from riparian tree plantings. 

The new funding complements $1.8 million worth of grant-funded work that has already been completed on the eastern two miles of the 5.5 mile-long Sterling Relief Drain. That project included daylighting the drain so that most of the water in the drain runs along the surface of the drain, rather than an underground pipe. This allows more water to be naturally absorbed into the ground. The initial project, begun in late 2018 and completed earlier this year, planted several hundred trees and thousands of Michigan native plant species along the drain. That project was funded by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NFWF and was a joint project between the Macomb County Public Works Office and Planning & Economic Development department.

“This project fulfills an important portion of our Master Plan for Parks and Natural Resources,” said Vicky Rad, Director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. “Overall, this will expand an important greenway in a densely populated community.”

The project will be administered by department staff in partnership with Macomb County Public Works and the Department of Roads as well as the city of Sterling Heights, Clinton River Watershed Council, and the Lake St. Clair CISMA.

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