Riverbanks along 1.35 miles of the Sterling Relief and Red Run drains in Macomb County are set to get a boost in habitat protection. The county announced last week that it will receive a grant of $300,000 to restore and enhance natural habitat along the 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 is aimed at enhancing local waterways by creating a biodiverse habitat for wildlife.
“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.”
Once completed, the project is predicted to benefit native pollinators, control invasive species, reduce erosion, increase riverbed canopy, and develop a waterfront trail for public access. Grant activities will restore over 30 acres of diverse native habitat and includes 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 riiverside 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. The initial project, funded by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NFWF, began in late 2018 and was completed earlier this year.
“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," said Candice S. Miller, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner.
"The drain has been redesigned to better filter pollutants out of the water," Miller said. "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."
Lake St. Clair CISMA coordinator McKenzie Bergmoser says riverbed restoration can transform a communities natural assets.
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.
Lake St. Clair CISMA coordinator McKenzie Bergmoser said that while restoration often starts by removing invasive species, the next crucial step is using native planst to restore the area.
"Making connective greenways is especially important in developed areas because it provides a safe corridor for wildlife movement, slows down and purifies storm water runoff before entering larger water bodies, better protects against erosion, and provides an atheistic view robust with life," said Bergemoser.