Sterling, IL turns 35-acre brownfield into ecotourism destination and wins award

Mayor Skip Lee recently received this year’s public official award from the Illinois Water Environment Association for his leadership in implementing Sterling’s downtown riverfront redevelopment plans.

In 2013, Sterling, Illinois learned it was the recipient of two state grants that would jump-start its riverfront ecotourism projects, primarily at the 35-acre Northwestern Steel & Wire site.

A $1.33 million Illinois Green Space Infrastructure grant has expedited stormwater retention and riverfront restoration work.

A $900,000 state Mud to Parks grant provided the massive amount of fill needed to put the site back together. A minimum of 3 feet of soil was needed to cap the area.

Lee said the work at the mill site is an accomplishment the entire city should be proud of.

It’s amazing to look at the cleanup work done at such a huge industrial site, and not only was it cleaned up, we still kept a steel mill on the property,” Lee said.

The mayor said the city is now working to make the riverfront a gateway and destination point. Public access to the river will be improved, including a safe infrastructure system for vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians.

The Mud to Parks grant allows us to open up the riverfront so people can enjoy the green space,” Lee said.

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