A conservation area can be seen along the sidewalk.

A conservation area can be seen along the sidewalk.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Complaints prompt city to pause hike-bike trail work

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 25, 2019

 The corner of Pond View Drive and Ginkgo Drive is near the city-owned Plumbrook Nature Preserve. Some residents in the area recently expressed fears that a proposed hike and bike trail could  disrupt their privacy, safety and the natural aspects of their community.

The corner of Pond View Drive and Ginkgo Drive is near the city-owned Plumbrook Nature Preserve. Some residents in the area recently expressed fears that a proposed hike and bike trail could disrupt their privacy, safety and the natural aspects of their community.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Johnson Acho said he built his home in northwestern Sterling Heights when he was 26, after buying the lot at a premium because of the nature preserve.

But after hearing that a proposed hike and bike trail is being planned in that area, he is worried that his home’s ambience will be negatively affected.

“I was one of the first people in that subdivision,” Acho said. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that you guys would even consider putting a trail through. ... Honestly, if this happens, I would definitely put my house for sale.” 

In 2016, Sterling Heights officials proposed a new hike and bike trail that would link Delia Park to the Beaumont Hospital, Troy, area. The proposal is also part of the city’s Recreating Recreation campaign.  

But during a June 18  Sterling Heights City Council meeting, a group of residents — including ones who live near the Plumbrook Nature Preserve — discussed during public comment why they are unhappy with the trail idea, citing concerns like crime, a lack of privacy and possibly lower home values. 

City officials agreed to pause progress on the plan for a couple of weeks, until they could talk more to affected residents.

Sterling Heights resident Jazmine Early said she has recently talked to residents near the proposed trail area to inform them about the plans, and she said that none of them were properly notified. She believes that the trail would be “literally by their backyard” and that many trees would be cut down. 

She noted that some city officials have said a hike and bike path would reduce crime, increase home values and increase the quality of life. 

“Although it may look good on paper … having projects like this one is more likely to do the opposite — increase crime, decrease home values and diminish the quality of life,” Early said. 

Another resident, Aleksandra Urban, was also worried that the trail would diminish the area’s natural aspects.

“I too enjoy watching the animals right now,” she said. “I have a very scenic backyard view where it’s, you know, Bambi, Thumper, some birds. And now I have to think about Mr. Vanderpool jogging through with his dog.”

Another resident said wild turkeys and deer inhabit the area, and he predicted that trail traffic would disturb that. 

“The main reason why we moved there was for a quiet area,” he said. “And we should’ve been notified by written communication or some other means.”

City Manager Mark Vanderpool denied that the project would require tree clear-cutting. He said that while some trees would have to go, others would be planted to replace them in the area.

He also said the proposed trail area is not a wetland and doesn’t go into the actual nature preserve — it goes around it. People are already allowed to walk through the proposed trail area, he said. The approximately 110-acre nature preserve is city-owned.

“People use this right of way right now,” Vanderpool said. “They walk down it. They hike down it. There isn’t really anything stopping them.”

He also said most city parks close at dusk, and the city discourages and prohibits their use during nighttime hours.

“Obviously, we can’t enforce every single park and every single violation of that,” he said. “We have literally thousands of homes that abut parks, that back up to parks that are used by thousands of people, especially on the weekends.” 

Vanderpool said city administrators “would be happy to hold an additional informational meeting” on the issue and meet with property owners individually to discuss issues like additional screening.

“I can certainly understand and appreciate and respect the concerns about public safety,” he said. “The reality is we have an extensive network of bike-hike trails in the city of Sterling Heights, and we have not had public safety concerns. ... We have police officers on bike patrol.”

Councilman Michael Radtke counted 22 public commenters who spoke against the trail idea, but he thinks the amenity would be a “net good” for the city. 

Councilwoman Deanna Koski said she wanted to know how the council could halt the construction and take no more additional steps until the city talks further with the residents about their concerns over the following couple of weeks. 

Mayor Michael Taylor said city officials have been talking about the project since 2016, but he said he personally doesn’t object to a two-week delay on the trail project. 

Taylor said the hike and bike trail is one of the centerpieces of the Recreating Recreation plan. Voters narrowly passed a millage for the parks and recreation plan in November 2016. He asked the public to work with the city to come up with ideas to minimize potential disruptions.

“The most difficult issues are the ones where something in your backyard is changing,” he said, later adding: “Just try to be calm and try to be patient and understand that this is a willing council and a willing administration. We will work with you to make sure that this is as minimally disruptive as possible.”

City Attorney Marc Kaszubski said the trail project is already under contract, and if the City Council decides to abandon the project, there could be legal consequences. 

In the end, the city agreed to a pause through administrative action, not an official council vote. Vanderpool and Kaszubski plan to report back to the City Council with updates on their findings at a July council meeting.

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.