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Planning and Economic Development

Contact: Gerard Santoro



April 22, 2022

Earth Day tree planting and clean up increases green canopy at Freedom Hill County Park and the Sterling Relief Drain

Volunteers from Macomb County and Consumers Energy plant more than 50 trees and shrubs

Volunteers from Macomb County Planning and Economic Development (MCPED) and Consumers Energy today cleaned up debris and planted trees at Freedom Hill County Park as part of an Earth Day celebration. The event, which was organized through MCPED’s Green Macomb initiative, is part of a larger effort to increase green canopy in the county.

“In 2016, our team had the foresight to create Green Macomb and to help solve a real issue in southeast Michigan, and that’s the major lack of tree canopy in our urban areas,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “Through efforts like today’s Earth Day tree planting and other programs with our local municipalities, we are making significant progress towards our goal of a greener, more vibrant region. And when we achieve that objective, our communities will feel an impact. Whether that’s a reduction in energy costs or the enhancement of our public spaces, everyone will benefit from this work.”

More than 50 trees and shrubs were planted throughout Freedom Hill County Park and near the Sterling Relief Drain, an area which has been a focus of work for MCPED, the City of Sterling Heights and the Macomb County Public Works Office (MCPWO). Officials are in the process of restoring and enhancing the natural habitat around the drain to improve water quality and drain operations, and the Earth Day tree planting supports that work.

“Our green infrastructure project at the Sterling Relief Drain involved the daylighting of portions of what had been buried pipe, in order to allow Mother Nature to naturally act as a sponge for stormwater, soaking up harmful nutrients and toxins before they have a chance to reach the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair,” Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller said. “The trees planted today increase the county’s green canopy and along this drain will help to prevent erosion, reduce sediment and absorb phosphorus and nitrogen.”

The Earth Day clean up and planting was made possible with the help of more than 25 volunteers from MCPED and Consumers Energy and the guidance of experts from Cardno.

“We at Consumers Energy believe every day should be Earth Day. That’s why we’re committed to doing good for our neighbors and the planet by investing in efforts that support a cleaner, healthier climate,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, executive director of Corporate Giving at Consumers Energy. “We’re thrilled to support Macomb County in planting trees this Earth Day, as we know this work will benefit us all for generations to come.”

“I’d like to thank Consumers Energy and everyone else who participated in our planting and clean up,” said Gerard Santoro, program director for parks and natural resources, MCPED. “Every event, no matter how big or small, helps us work towards our goal of a Green Macomb. It’s hard work, but the results are worth it.”

Currently Macomb’s tree cover is 26 percent, which falls short of the USDA recommendation of a 40 percent cover or better in urban areas. However, along with residents increasing tree plantings on their properties, promotion and education will help the county reach that goal.

More information on green canopy in Macomb County can be found at and pictures and b-roll from the Earth Day planting can be found here.

Photo 1 (left to right): Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel; Commissioner Joseph Romano, Macomb County Board of Commissioners; Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller; Lauren Brosch, community affairs manager, Macomb & St. Clair Counties, Consumers Energy

Photo 2: Volunteers at the tree planting

Photo 3: Volunteers at the tree planting

Photo 4: A volunteer picks up trash along the Sterling Relief Drain

Photo 5: Volunteers at the tree planting

Photo 6: Instructions are given to tree planting volunteers by Gerard Santoro, program director for parks and natural resources at Macomb County Planning and Economic Development

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