Sterling Heights' Visioning 2040 plan authorized for ballot proposal this November

Residents of Sterling Heights will have another reason to head out to the polls this election year as the Sterling Heights City Council has officially authorized the Visioning 2040 strategic plan to be put on this year’s ballot. If it passes, a dedicated .95 millage would be levied to fund a bevy of projects that enhance the quality of life that Sterling Heights seeks to offer its residents and businesses – and those that might come in the future.
A recent mobility project installed bike lanes along Plumbrook Road between Utica and 17 Mile roads.
The Visioning 2040 strategic plan follows Vision 2030, the similar-in-spirit strategic plan that preceded it. Such strategic plans aren’t just academic, as Sterling Heights proved with its 2030 plan; the productive REcreating Recreation millage was but one of that plan’s many success stories.

“Without question, Recreating Recreation has engaged and connected the City to its residents in ways that just weren’t possible prior to 2016,” says Mayor Michael C. Taylor. “It is the foundation for building a great city and Visioning 2040 is an opportunity to continue the success that so many residents now take pride in.”

[Related: Read “How Sterling Heights’ Vision 2030 investment has led to a flourishing post-recession city” on Metromode.]

Among the community development strategies targeted by Visioning 2040 are several large projects that build and expand upon the city’s network of parks, nature spaces, and outdoor recreation destinations. It’s a peek into Sterling Heights’ future, one with more amenities and attractions and all with an eye on improved mobility and environmental sustainability. Among the proposed projects include the creation of a dedicated funding source to improve on sidewalk repair efforts and an open space preservation initiative that turns underdeveloped parcels into outdoor assets.

“Visioning 2040 answers the question that I hear often – What’s next?” says City Manager Mark Vanderpool. “The Visioning 2040 projects are exactly what’s needed to maintain Sterling Heights’ status as a destination for families and businesses seeking a great quality of life.”
The entrance to Plumbrook Trail at the Sterling Heights Nature Preserve.
Here’s a look at some of those projects proposed.

The 85-acre Sterling Heights Nature Preserve nestles against Corewell Health, formerly Beaumont Hospital, in northwestern Sterling Heights. The old growth forest within the preserve, however, is largely inaccessible to the public as the only trail that touches the park is a small stretch of the Plumbrook Trail on its southern edge.

Visioning 2040 calls for an interior pathway through the nature preserve with strategically placed observation areas throughout. The trail would connect to Plumbrook Trail to the south and a non-motorized pathway currently being constructed along Dolby Drive to the north.

New sidewalk installed and trees planted along a stretch of Maple Lane Drive.

Sterling Heights’ tree canopy has decreased over the years, with the city’s tree canopy coverage resting at just 19 percent today; the USDA-recommended tree canopy coverage for a municipality is 40 percent. The Emerald Ash borer outbreak of the early 2000s helped bring that number down, resulting in 36 percent of Sterling Heights homes lacking street trees today.

Visioning 2040 wants to change that, hoping to institute an on-going reforestation program in the city. The goal is to plant approximately 15,000 street trees throughout Sterling Heights neighborhoods, restoring a once robust tree canopy to its former leafy glory.

Rotary Park is underutilized, the strategic plan suggests, with only 0.97 of its 17.7 acres offering any public amenities. Those amenities include a picnic shelter, playscape, and parking lot.

Visioning 2040 will better utilize the park by expanding its footprint through adjacent property acquisitions; installing a canoe and kayak livery on its stretch of the Clinton River; building an internal asphalt pathway and boardwalk; adding new athletic fields and courts; and more. The expanded park would also acknowledge the historic Belvedere Park within, a popular site for recreation in the 1920s.

A nature observation deck would overlook Red Run Drain, site of a habitat restoration effort for pollinators.

Southeastern Sterling Heights lacks open park space, the City attests. The development of a 14.9 acre parcel could change that.

Visioning 2040 would develop that parcel and create Red Run Park. The park would include six lighted outdoor pickleball courts, a dog park, non-motorized pathways, picnic shelters, and more. A pedestrian bridge would connect the new park to L.W. Baumgartner Park, and a nature observation deck would overlook Red Run Drain. What’s more is that the new park would include a 24-Hour Library, a 21st century library vending machine, of sorts. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a 24-Hour Library acts as a satellite library, unmanned but offering book check-outs and returns, audio and eBook downloads, Wi-Fi hot spots, and more.

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. and that’s well-represented in Sterling Heights where demand for open courts is as high as ever.

Visioning 2040 calls for the construction of an indoor paddle sport complex, complete with six table tennis tables and eight pickleball courts. The indoor complex would be open year-round.
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