Sterling Heights

Sun's out, pups out: The most dog-friendly spots in Sterling Heights

As spring has just about sprung, the sunshine and higher temperatures casting their warmth across southeastern Michigan means certain things ‘round these parts. Just as the groundhog emerged from its burrow, so too have the joggers, cyclists, and those who insist on wearing shorts – and even if it is only 50 degrees outside. A nice day, after all, is most often relative to the day that precedes it.

Warmer temps also mean that those of us with dogs can let our furry friends outside for longer stretches of time, and to extend our daily walks a few blocks more. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes we want to take our dogs out on an adventure, or to have social time with other dogs, or, even, to join us as we have social time with our own friends. There’s no shortage of such options in Sterling Heights, as we’ll share below.

Spring has just about sprung, so let’s shake the dust off and see what’s shaking for our furry friends in Sterling Heights.

The Sterling Heights Dog Park is located through the Ryan Road entrance to Delia Park.

Nestled in the northeast corner of Joseph J. Delia Jr. Park is the Sterling Heights Dog Park, two acres of fenced-in playspace for our dogs to get their zoomies out. The dog park is separated into two areas; an area for all dogs occupies 1.25 acres and an adjacent 0.75 acres are dedicated to just the small pups. Dog parks often reserve a separate space for small dogs so they can have fun without owners worrying about an excited 60-pound labrador barreling through the grass.

The dog park at Delia Park is relatively new, having opened in July 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back then, city parks like Delia offered a rare opportunity for neighbors to greet each other in public, albeit at a safe distance, and the new dog park provided another badly needed opportunity to do just that. But the dog park is no less important today, providing the community a place to let their dogs run around while their people catch up with old neighbors and meet new ones. That is one of the beauties of a well-maintained dog park; it provides a place for both dogs and people to foster community alike.

And to get your zoomies out, of course.

The Sterling Heights Dog Park requires that visitors apply for a pass before being granted access to the park, which requires such formalities and safety requirements like a dog’s vaccination records, dog license paperwork, and an initialed acknowledgement of the park’s Code of Conduct. A one-time $5 application fee is also required.

But don’t let the paperwork stop you. While there are some incredible parks and trails worth exploring in Sterling Heights, it’s the dog park at Delia Park where a dog can be taken off leash and allowed to sprint as far as park fences allow.

A bridge welcomes dogs across the Clinton River in Sterling Heights.

Of course, just because you’re not allowed to let your dog off-leash at the city’s other parks doesn’t mean they’re not worth visiting – just don’t forget to bring a leash and those handy dandy dog waste bags to pick up after your pup. Sterling Heights’ non-motorized and nature trails are extending further and further out, with plans and ambitions to extend several of them even further.

Starting at Delia Park, one can walk their dogs for two miles along the Sterling Heights Nature Trail before reaching the nature preserve behind Beaumont Hospital. The Clinton River Trail System is vast by comparison, extending more than 461 acres along its Sterling Heights stretch. Miles of trails weave along the river itself, in and out of wooded forests and opening up to several parks that include Dodge Park, Donovan Park, Farmstead Park, and the North and South Clinton River parks. What’s more is that in November 2023, the City announced plans to extend the trail system even further. Within the next two years, the trail system should extend another 2.5 miles, beginning from the Edison Street trailhead and connecting to Lakeside Mall.

Providing habitat for butterflies and other pollinators is a priority in Sterling Heights, from the Butterfly Flyway to this butterfly garden at the city’s Nature Center.Another trail extension of sorts is being sought by the Macomb County Public Works Office, which, in September 2023, announced that the County was attempting to win a new grant that would enable a 1.5-mile extension of the Butterfly Flyway within the Sterling Relief Drain. A project that began in 2018 removed a 1960s-era drainage system in favor of more sustainable green infrastructure. More than 135,000 native perennial plants, over 1,000 shrubs, and hundreds of trees have since been planted, creating a Butterfly Flyway that regularly attracts more than a dozen species to the area, as well as other important pollinators and birds. A trail runs along that system, which is located south of Metropolitan Parkway and runs west of Ryan Road to east of Schoenherr Road, and dogs love chasing butterflies – an even better to keep our friends on their leashes when enjoying the outdoors here.

Another great part about warmer temperatures is the return of patio season. Given a city of the size of Sterling Heights, which boasts more than 130,000 residents and is currently the fourth largest city in Michigan, there is no shortage of patios to be enjoyed within city limits. What’s more is that a number of these fine establishments allow dogs to accompany their humans to happy hour, too.

Ventimiglia Italian Foods and its dog-friendly outdoor seating area.The popular Bring Fido service compiles and offers a list of dog-friendly businesses within any given city, including bars and restaurants but even dog-friendly hotels, too. Bring Fido confirms that each listing is indeed dog-friendly, but also recommends calling a business to double-check before showing up. There are some classic Sterling Heights businesses listed as welcoming to our four-legged friends, including the outdoor seating areas of Ventimiglia Italian Foods, Deer Camp Coffee, and Gator Jake’s Bar & Grill. Just maybe order a little extra next time you go out for a bite to eat with your pup in tow.

Visit Sterling Heights online to learn more about applying for access to the Dog Park at Delia Park, how to obtain a dog license, and more.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.