The rock garden on the library grounds in Sterling Heights is an Eagle Scout service project by Stevenson High School student Liam Hilliker. Residents can enjoy the painted rocks, add their own or even take home the ones they like.

The rock garden on the library grounds in Sterling Heights is an Eagle Scout service project by Stevenson High School student Liam Hilliker. Residents can enjoy the painted rocks, add their own or even take home the ones they like.

Photo provided by Melanie Davis

Rock garden invites residents to take and leave painted stones

City plants new tree nearby to celebrate Arbor Day

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 12, 2021


STERLING HEIGHTS — The Sterling Heights Public Library now has a rock garden, where people can leave painted rocks for others to enjoy or take home rocks that catch their eye.

Members of the city’s library board, arts commission and beautification commission cut the ribbon on the new addition April 20. The rock garden is an Eagle Scout project by Liam Hilliker of Troop 1402, who funded the garden and oversaw its installation.

Hilliker, 17, a student at Stevenson High School, said in an email that the idea was suggested by library officials when he approached them asking how he could give back to the community. He then drafted a design that the city approved.

“I chose the Sterling Heights Public Library because I have spent many hours, on many days, enjoying the library’s services,” Hilliker said.

The project serves as a final test for Eagle Scout certification, demonstrating the skills the Scout has learned through the program by applying them to a real-life situation. This includes the ability to organize and lead a team.

The garden is on the side of the building that faces the skatepark. The library itself is located at 40255 Dodge Park Road. The garden consists of a small wooden square filled with pea gravel, where people can place a rock on the gravel and take rocks, as well. Two teams of Scouts collaborated on the build, which was overseen by Hilliker. One team cut the wood and drilled holes, while the other team installed the garden on the library grounds.

“The best way that people can interact with the garden is to paint rocks and add to the garden. Other ways that people can interact with the garden is by taking rocks, or even just looking at the artwork that is on the rocks,” Hilliker said. “My hope for this garden is that it will give people a sense of community and make them feel heard. I feel that artists will appreciate knowing that people enjoy their artwork if their rock is taken from the garden.”

The rock garden concept is popular with a local Facebook group, Sterling Heights Art Rocks, who put the idea on the library’s radar when they asked the city’s arts commission for a Kindness Rock Garden back in September 2020.

The members of Sterling Heights Art Rocks regularly paint and hide rocks in city parks and green spaces, similar to an Easter egg hunt. There’s a feeling of magic to discovering a whimsically painted rock in an unexpected place, maybe with an inspirational message to brighten one’s day. Some residents take photos and post their discoveries on the Facebook page, while others hide them again for others to find.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor said the rock garden is a welcome addition.

“Public art and interactive place-making projects of all shapes and sizes are a big benefit to our community, and this rock garden is a perfect example,” Taylor said in a statement. “A few years ago, we started with the Children’s Garden and mural here next to the library. Then we added the oversized chess and checker board, and now we have this rock garden. All these installations offer ways residents can gather and engage with each other, their library and their city. We thank Mr. Hilliker for his vision, hard work and creation of something our residents will enjoy for years to come.”

The rock garden wasn’t the only new addition near the library. The city of Sterling Heights recently earned its 36th consecutive Tree City USA Award from the National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service, which recognizes the city for maintaining its tree canopy.

To mark the occasion, and in recognition of Arbor Day, an autumn blaze maple tree was planted next to the library on April 20, the same day that the rock garden opened. Arbor Day itself is the last Friday of April.

During the ceremony, the mayor and City Council members joined Michael Moore, the director of the Department of Public Works, to plant the tree.

“I am extremely proud of this great honor that the city of Sterling Heights has continued to earn for over three decades,” Moore said in a statement, reflecting on the city’s Tree City USA status. “Trees and other plantings help preserve the health and well-being of our residents, protect property values, and contribute to Sterling Heights’ exceptional quality of life.”

The mayor echoed this sentiment.

“The Tree City USA Award says that Sterling Heights is a community that cares about its environment,” Taylor said, “and understands the importance of sustainability.”