Belle Isle is not just an ordinary park, but also an iconic symbol in Detroit. With the tough economic times that Michigan has faced one city in particular has taken a massive hit. In the early 1900’s Michigan was put on the map thanks to the booming car industry that was driven by the city of Detroit. In more recent times, Detroit has become a vision of economic failure. This being that Detroit is the biggest city that has ever filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy (Pinho). With the entire city struggling people tend to over look the smaller issues that are occurring that are directly affecting those who live in the area. One of these neglected areas is Belle Isle. This Island is located in Detroit, Michigan and has been converted into a state park.
In November of 2013, the city has joined in a 30-year lease for Belle Isle. Although the park in no longer completely owned by the city of Detroit, they are expected to save “at least $4 million annually, and the state is expected to make $10 million to $20 Million in improvements in the next three years” (Pinho). Mayor Bing stated, “It's not about just Detroit but this region... It's very important that Detroiters understand this is their park -- we're not giving it away -- but we were in such terrible financial condition... there is no way we had the funding that was necessary to maintain the park, much less invest in it” (Burns). Although some citizens may have an issue with the state getting involved, like the city council, which had proposed at 10-year lease proposal but the state would not approve it unless it was a 30-year lease (Pinho). Help from the state is the best outcome to help the city of Detroit get back on its feet along with being able to make the necessary upgrades along with keeping the park open.
With the collaboration of the state and the city of Detroit, the construction of an advisory committee was set in place. There consists of seven members whom were appointed and approved by Governor Rick Snyder and Mayor of Detroit Dave Bing (Egan). The members of the Belle Isle Advisory Committee consists of Michele Hodges, Bryan Barnhill, Michael Curis, Rev. Lonnie Peek Jr., Bud Denker, Alicia Minter, and Sommer Woods (Egan). These committee members are to work alongside the Department of Natural Resources to help improve the Belle Isle State Park (Egan). Keeping this park not just open but well functioning is not an easy task and is essential to the citizens and the City of Detroit. Even Gov. Rick Snyder believes that Belle Isle is “a crown jewel of the state” and “will be a significant player in the renaissance of Detroit while also providing world-class recreational opportunities to the citizens of Detroit, Michigan and beyond” (Egan). The full transition of turning Belle Isle into the 102nd State Park was finalized on February 10, which means that all vehicles will require a state recreation passport to enter (Egan). These fees will be $11 for motor vehicles and $5 for motorcycles (Burns). This is a way in which it will not drastically affect those who use the park but rather it is an essential way for those who are using the park to give back and help the government maintain the natural beauty that Belle Isle has to offer.
The improvements that have been targeted to be made before February 10th entail repairing picnic tables, providing secured trashcans, and renovating the restrooms (Burns). With this winter being one for the books, progress amongst improving the park has been simple tasks. With great plans for the future, there has been only so much that the Department of Natural Resources, contractors, organizations and volunteers have been able to accomplish so far. These possible ideas that the committee will look at implementing after the official transition is “improvements to softball fields to attract more leagues and tournaments, repairing the James Scott Memorial Fountain, adding kayaks and a water-taxi with access to the island and installing boat launches” (Burns). These improvements will enhance the enjoyment of local Detroiters and tourists who have came to experience the rich natural and historic beauty that Detroit has to offer.
The advancement of this state park is just a piece of the puzzle in putting the breathtaking Detroit back together. Once the city of Detroit is economically stable, Michigan will once again be noticed as the naturally beautiful state that it has always been. Belle Isle is a step in the right direction for this process to occur. Detroiters are now able to enjoy family picnics at sturdy tables, paths have been cleared for joggers, and children are able to play baseball and soccer once again. As Michigan’s 102nd state park, it’s a vision of what true pure Michigan is all about.
Pinho, Kirk. “Bankruptcy, Belle Isle, blight storylines to continue into 2014.” Crain's Detroit Business. 23 Dec 2013: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <.">http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20131223/NEWS/131229941/>.
Egan , Paul. “New advisory committee to focus on improvements, safety on Belle Isle.” Detroit Free Press. 26 Dec 2013: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <http://www.freep.com/article/20131226/NEWS02/312260102/belle-isle-panel- advisory-committee>.
Burns, Gus. “Michigan DNR starts work on Detroit's Belle Isle; State takes full control Feb. 10.” MLive. 11 Dec 2013: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2013/12/state_leaders_discuss_pol ishin.html>.