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Sterling State Park

Sterling, United States

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Sterling State Park in the United States is the only Michigan state park located on the shores of Lake Erie. The park encompasses 2.03 mi² (5.26 km²) just northeast of Monroe, Michigan in Frenchtown Charter Township in Monroe County. The park was established in 1920. The park sits just north of where the River Raisin empties into Lake Erie. The park is located just south of Sandy Creek and the community of Detroit Beach. The park is located less than a mile from Interstate 75, which provides easy access from the neighboring areas of Detroit, Toledo, and Windsor. The main attractions at the park include the beach, a boat launch, and shore fishing. There are over six miles (9.66 km) of biking and hiking trails within the park.

Sterling State Park was established in an effort to preserve the Lake Erie coastline after decades of pollutants from the Detroit River emptied into the region— killing off tremendous amounts of wildlife and leaving the lake largely uninhabitable. For quite some time, Sterling State Park was greatly polluted by river runoff from Detroit, and swimming in the water was not recommended and even illegal. After decades and millions of dollars spent, the region was cleaned up and partially restored. In the late 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the area to be an environmental concern due to the level of pollutants in Lake Erie and the River Raisin. When studying fish in the area, PCB levels increased 87% from the 1988 to 1998. The result of the overpollution came from the sudden industrial growth surrounding the River Raisin delta and Lake Erie. The largest of these industries include a Ford plant and the coal-burning Monroe Power Plant, both of which caused severe impacts on the ecosystem of the area. In September 1997, the Ford completed an environmental dredging project in the River Raisin and removed approximately 25,000 cubic yards (19,000 m³) of toxic PCB-contaminated sediment from the River Raisin.

In 2001, Sterling State Park was included as the southern border of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. This allowed the park to receive federal funding for a $12 million renovation project. The park was closed during the 2003 season while the renovation was carried out to the park, which was remodeled to include miles of wetland walking paths open to the public in an area that had been closed since the early 1900s. Today, the park boasts many lagoons and marshes, providing good habitat for a variety of wildlife and bird life that have returned to the area. During the time of renovation, there was a threat of E. coli bacteria in the lake waters, which resulted in several deaths in neighboring Ontario. Sterling State Park was not tested since the park was closed at the time. Swimming in Lake Erie is constantly monitored to make sure that the level of toxins are low enough not to pose a threat to human safety. The once severely polluted lake has undergone much restoration in the past decade, which has greatly benefited Sterling State Park.

Today, Sterling State Park includes 256 modernized camp sites (open only from April 15 – November 1), picnic areas and shelters, biking and hiking trails, a recreational metal detecting area, beach access, and playgrounds. Snowmobiling is permitted in the park only when there is an excess of four inches of snow. The park is also bordered by a prestine 36-hole golf course. Every year for Independence Day, Monroe holds a fireworks show on Lake Erie, within clear view of the park, to which thousands of people drive to view the show, causing severe traffic congestion. Many boats also moor on the lake, where the fireworks are best seen.

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Nearest protected areas

Cedar Point


Official Record

  • WDPA ID4444715
  • NameSterling
  • Original NameSterling
  • Country / TerritoryUSA
  • Sub locationUS-MI
  • IUCN CategoryVWhat is this?
  • English DesignationState Park
  • Designation TypeNational
  • StatusDesignated
  • Status YearUnknown
  • Reported Area km20.0
  • Marinefalse
  • Governance TypeSub-national ministry or agency
  • International CriteriaNot Applicable
  • Management AuthorityOther State Land
  • Management Plan URLNot Reported




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