Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder today announced a plan to revitalize Belle Isle Park through a state-city partnership. The plan calls for a 30-year lease of the island park where the City would maintain ownership and the State would manage and fund park operations through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). According to Bing, the plan will restore Belle Isle to its initial beauty while and saving the city $275 million over the next 30 years.
“This is a win-win situation for the City and the entire State,” Bing told reporters at a press conference Wednesday morning. “We want the gem [that is] Belle Isle to be polished again.” Bing said he had spoken with several council members and is optimistic. “They are supportive of this. We all want the same thing … to make Belle Isle a safe, beautiful place for people to take their families.” If the City Council approves the plan, the first actions the DNR will take is to sharply up the safety patrols on the island and restore athletic fields and restroom areas, Snyder said.
There are also long-term projects for the island including more recreational activities and re-opening the aquarium, boathouse and canals. “We’re excited about the opportunity to partner with the City on a City-owned asset,” he told reporters. He said the proposal is an example of the State working “hand in hand” with the City. “This isn’t Detroit versus Michigan, this is Detroit, Michigan,” he said. If the lease is approved, Belle Isle will become a state park while maintaining city ownership.
The 36 recreation workers assigned to Belle Isle would not lose their jobs but instead be reassigned to other city parks and recreation centers, Bing said. According to George Jackson, CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the entire island will be under DNR control with the exception of the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservancy greenhouse. Snyder said the funding for the Belle Isle improvements would come from bonds paid for by the DNR and a number of grants. But said he was not going to “focus on dollar amounts”.
Under the 30-year lease, all state park rules would apply to Belle Isle including an annual $10 fee for private vehicles to enter the island. There would be no entry fee for people on foot, bikes or buses. Bing said he thought the Belle Isle announcement should be bigger news than former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s federal corruption trial. “We can’t let negative things that have gone on in the past overshadow out future,” he said.