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 Macomb County officials recently presented a proposal to redevelop the Sterling Relief Drain corridor area, adding a nonmotorized trail and connecting it to recreational amenities.

Macomb County officials recently presented a proposal to redevelop the Sterling Relief Drain corridor area, adding a nonmotorized trail and connecting it to recreational amenities.

Photo by Donna Agusti

County presents proposal to redevelop drain area

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 14, 2018

 This portion of the corridor area is near Schoenherr Road, south of Metropolitan Parkway.

This portion of the corridor area is near Schoenherr Road, south of Metropolitan Parkway.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Macomb County officials were eager to spill details on a county recreation proposal that could redevelop the area around a Sterling Heights drain.

During a Feb. 6 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller helped give a presentation about a plan to turn the surrounding area of the Sterling Relief Drain into linear park space with a trail, additional trees and more.

“We’re very excited about this,” Miller said. “It’s in the early stages, but we’re making great progress.”

She said her department has focused extensively on drain cleanouts and maintenance, but it has also turned its attention to the Sterling Relief Drain area, located between 15 Mile Road and Metropolitan Parkway in Sterling Heights.

She said the drain was originally built in the 1960s, back when the area was called Sterling Township, and it was done to drain a wetland in the area so that neighborhoods could be built.

Miller said the Macomb County Public Works Commission owns the drain, which is fenced in, and the county spends time and resources maintaining it. She said pheasants and other types of wildlife have made the area home.

She added that county officials have already met with Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool and other officials to discuss the county’s ideas.

According to county officials, the actual drain corridor is 5.1 miles long and 250 feet wide. The entire drainage district sits on 4,319 acres and has 27,573 people living within it, according to the presentation.

John Paul Rea, from the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, said the plan would most directly affect 7,425 properties, 13,526 workers, 3,552 K-12 students, and 17 schools and parks near the corridor area.

He explained that the proposed redevelopment plan lays out goals dealing with community, sustainability, connectivity and accessibility. It would create a new nonmotorized trail and would link Freedom Hill County Park to other recreational venues and parks in the city.

The presentation also touted the expected environmental benefits of the county plan, adding that it would support natural habitats, recreational amenities, open space, and water quality and storage. More trees would be planted too, Rea said.

He said the plan would fit in with Sterling Heights’ recent Recreating Recreation initiative, which aims to create destination spots and attractive green spaces.

Rea said projections show that building the green space as an asset could boost local property values by 3.5 percent to 15 percent, growing with increased proximity to the drain corridor area.

“When you add it all up with these 7,400 properties, it’s the ability to inject ($60 million more) in total market value assessment,” he said, adding that those are only projections.

Rea said he would not ask the city for money toward the project, adding that the county is seeking multiple funding opportunities to subsidize the work from sources like the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“We’re looking at about $6 (million) to $8 million that would be injected into this corridor, everything from planting to trails to safety and ultimately re-envisioning the Sterling Relief Drain,” he said.

Rea said getting some engineering in place for the work could happen in 2019, with some active construction scheduled to start up in 2020.

Many of the City Council’s responses to the presentation were favorable, though concerns about safety and privacy were also aired, particularly for nearby homes or for people who are trying to cross Schoenherr Road.

“We have to make sure it remains safe,” Councilman Michael Radtke said.

Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko said there is a good possibility that she would use the amenities along a redeveloped drain area. But she asked whether fencing would be taken down — some of it would, though homes’ fencing would remain.

“My biggest concern would be the residents’ reaction that have lived on that drain for years and then see it transformed into something that wouldn’t be what they’re used to,” Ziarko said.

Miller confirmed that the drainpipe would remain and that the county would ensure that the drain continues to work after any redevelopment. She also said she believes that there might be some pushback from residents, but she wants to hold public meetings for residents to see the presentation and ask any questions.

“We want the citizens to embrace this,” Miller said. “And it’s change, so we are all hesitant about change — let’s face it, right? — particularly if it’s literally in your backyard. So I think we all need to be sensitive to that and make sure that we do everything that we can to outreach. And we certainly will try to do that.”

Mayor Michael Taylor praised the idea’s innovation and the prospect of connecting bike trails with the project, calling it “game changing.”

“Seeing the designs and schematics that you presented today, they’re really forward thinking. I think they’re very progressive and exciting,” he said.

Find out more about Macomb County’s plan to redevelop the Sterling Relief Drain area by visiting Learn more about Sterling Heights by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489.