The City of Sterling maintains seven parks in addition to the parks operated by the Sterling Park District. These are neighborhood parks located throughout the community. The total land area is in excess of 15 acres. Several years ago, the City began a multi-year project to upgrade all of our parks. We are installing new playground equipment, upgrading basketball courts, and putting in new curbs and sidewalks. Some parks are receiving parking lot upgrades as well. Our plan calls for the addition of more benches and picnic tables to further encourage park use.
Lincoln and Wallace parks are neighborhood parks offering several basketball courts, play areas and open space for people to enjoy. Platt Park offers open space and a ball diamond in the middle of town, while Dale Park offers a break and a place to sit in the shade downtown. So go kick back, relax, and enjoy the outdoors and recreational activities here in Sterling. The City of Sterling is also home to both a YMCA and a YWCA.
The parks are open from dawn to dusk. Some of our parks host special scheduled events. Our most popular events are the weekly municipal band concerts held each Wednesday during the months of June, July, and August at the Grandon Civic Center in Central Park. Each year, the municipal band draws thousands of listeners for a concert in the park. Movies at Grandon hosts free outdoor movies, also at Grandon Civic Center in Central Park.
Sterling has grown along the banks of the Rock River since the City’s inception. Prior to the establishment of Sterling, the Sac (Sauk) and Fox tribes had settled the area, utilizing the river and the fertile growing grounds that surround it.
Beginning to the west of West Bend, Wisconsin, the river runs south to Illinois, then takes a southwesterly path toward its terminus at the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities. Along the way, the Rock River passes through Watertown, WI, Janesville, WI, Rockford, IL, Sterling/Rock Falls, IL, and finally through Rock Island, IL where the Rock River meets the Mississippi River.
Originally, the settlers of the area envisioned the Rock River as a means of transportation. However, that hope quickly faded and was replaced by the railroad. Nevertheless, the river provided the power to the original mills in the area. Today, the City of Rock Falls draws power from the hydroelectric dam, while industry relies on the river for some cooling functions.
However, the Rock River is mainly used as a recreational playground. Some of the best channel catfish in the State can be found in the Rock River, and in this area. The river is also teeming with flathead cats. These monster cats can easily reach 45-50 pounds in this area. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is also making a concerted effort to keep the Rock River well stocked with walleye and sauger. Each year, walleye fishing gets better. There are also a good number of small-mouth bass, white bass, bluegill and drum to be found in the Rock River.
There’s much more to the river than fishing though. At the eastern edge of the City, the Rock River expands into Sinnissippi Lake. Here, many boaters enjoy days on the lake for recreational rides, barbecuing, and water skiing. Others prefer to paddle the river. This can be done on Sinnissippi Lake, or south of the dam. Both Oppold Marina and Lawrence Park make excellent launching grounds for small paddle craft.
Oppold Marina and Lawrence Park are both operated by the Sterling Park District. Please contact them for additional information.
The Hennepin Canal can be accessed by crossing from Martin's Landing in Sterling across the Sinnissippi Dam Walkway to Rock Falls. The Hennepin Canal Feeder (on the National Register of Historic Places) extends from Rock Falls to Sheffield, IL. The Hennepin Canal Feeder opens the door to the parkway with miles of bike and hiking paths, canoeing, fishing and historical sites along the way. You can enjoy biking, hiking, fishing, boating, canoeing and soak in the beauty of this manmade wonder.
Construction on the Hennepin Canal, as it was commonly known, began in 1892 and was completed in 1907 at a cost of more than seven million dollars. The main canal extended 75 miles from the Illinois River near Hennepin to the Rock River near its juncture with the Mississippi. A feeder canal from the Rock River joined the main canal 29 miles to the south near Mineral. Utilization of the Hennepin Canal never reached expected proportions because of rapid technological advances in other modes of transportation, and in 1951 it was closed to traffic.
Sterling Park District
Sterling is within one of the best Park Districts in the State. The Sterling Park District offers a variety of recreational opportunities in addition to the City parks. At Lawrence Park, which is situated on an island in the Rock River, users can launch watercraft, use the pavilion, or fish on the island. At the Westwood Fitness and Sports Center, you can purchase memberships or pay a daily drop-in fee for the tennis courts, basketball courts, track, Westwood Fitness, and more. At the District's Duis Center, users can go swimming in the indoor pool or workout at Duis Fitness. The Park District also runs Emerald Hill Golf Course on the east end of the City and Oppold Marina on the Rock River. In addition, there are a number of parks spread around the Sterling area that offer ball diamonds, soccer and football fields, tennis courts, playgrounds and picnic benches. For more information on the Sterling Park District, contact them at (815) 622-6200.
Sterling Park District Facilities
The Dillon Home Property was donated to the Sterling Park District in 1980 in memory of Paul W. Dillon and his wife. The Dillon Home functions primarily as a museum but weddings can also be hosted on the grounds.
The Dillon Home is located at 1005 East Third Street (the Historical Society is located in the Carriage house). You can reach the Dillon Home by email or at (815) 622-6202 and the Sterling Rock Falls Historical Society at (815) 622-6215.
In 1968, the Duis Recreation Center property was purchased and the facility was dedicated on April 6, 1970. The Duis Center originally consisted of a 25 yard swimming pool and diving well with one and three meter diving boards, two basketball/tennis courts with uni-turf flooring and a handball court. Other activities that the facility has had through the years are shuffleboard, bumper pool, ping-pong, arcade games, a nature center, and several various forms of fitness equipment. The building has also been home to the Sterling Stingrays Swim Club since it was completed.
The original exterior siding and roof of the building were replaced in 2009 as the first phase of construction. The parking lots have been resurfaced and a new north parking lot has also been added. The interior design was completed by Gary Anderson & Associates of Rockford with assistance from Sterling Park District staff. In April 2010, the Sterling Park District Board of Commissioners approved the bid for Sjostrom & Sons, Inc., of Rockford to complete the interior renovations. The interior renovations consisted of completely renovated lobby space, registration desk, staff offices, restrooms, locker rooms, fitness center, multipurpose room, upstairs viewing for both the pool and the gym and the addition of an elevator. Additionally, both pools, the pool area and the gymnasium were repainted and incorporated into the new color scheme and overall design. As a part of the construction, the gymnasium has been converted into the new home of the Sterling Park District's gymnastics program, Saltos Gymnastics.
The facility re-opened on October 29, 2010. The Duis Recreation Center is located at 211 East St. Mary's Road in Sterling. Their phone number is (815) 622-6200.
The Emerald Hill Golf Course was purchased and renovated by the Sterling Park District in 1994. It is home to the Emerald Hill Pavilion, which is available for weddings and parties.
Emerald Hill Golf Course is located at 16802 Prairieville Road and can be reached at (815) 622-6204.
In 1968, the Park District received a recreational lease from the US Corp of Engineers on thrity-one acres now known as Harry Oppold Marina. In 1971, the Harbor House, park roads and lighting, a 50-foot launch ramp, and 100-foot main dock, and parking lots were developed through a 100% funded grant. Since the leasing of Oppold, the dredging of Oxbow Lake, addition of boat slips, two picnic shelters, picnic units, playground areas, landscaping, and more has been added.
The Oppold Marina is located at Stouffer Road and the electronic gate opens at 5 AM and closes at 11PM. You can contact the Marina at 815-622-2262.
Westwood Fitness is the Sauk Valley's largest fitness facility. Housed within Westwood Fitness & Sports Center, Westwood Fitness features over 12,000 square feet of fitness equipment including free weights, full circuit equipment, stretching areas and cardio theatre. Westwood Fitness also offers a wide variety of aerobics classes geared for all ages and fitness agendas. Aerobics classes, fitness counseling and equipment orientation are included with membership or payment of the daily drop in fee. Fitness punch cards are also available. Westwood Fitness also offers personal training, locker rental, and towel rental at an additional cost. Westwood is located at 1900 Westwood Drive and can be reached at (815) 622-6201.