To tear down the old Belle Isle Park water slide to make way for a new $3.5 million splash pad, it would have cost the Michigan Department of Natural Resources roughly $20,000-$25,000. Since the Belle Isle Conservancy, who the DNR has partnered with for the new splash pad, is already in the process of raising the money for the project, the money needed for the demolition would have put a huge dent in the fundraising pot.
So, Michael Farrow, founder and President of Farrow Demolition Incorporated, offered his services for free. Farrow, who is from Detroit, did the job himself, which began at 10:06 a.m. on Monday.
“There’s a little history with me donating my services today,” said Farrow, who has been in business since 1998. “I’ve been donating services to the island since I’ve been in business. I love Belle Isle, my mom used to bring me here as a kid, and I enjoy coming here.
“I wanted to be a part of this because I see the rebirth of the island and by me donating my services, I’m hoping for other corporate sponsors to follow. This is our island in the city and maybe this will encourage others to give back.”
The water slide and bathhouse were built in 1996 and have not been in use since 2013. The DNR did an inspection of the island in 2014, where officials discovered the water slide was not up to code. They determined the water slide would have to be replaced by a splash pad.
“We’ve been trying to figure what we were going to do with the slide since day-one,” said Jacob Brown, unit supervisor for Belle Isle Park. “We tried to work on the pumps when we first got here and that didn’t work and then we started looking at ways to get rid of it.
“The splash pad is a little easier to control, you don’t have to have the lifeguards, and it’s something that’s a little more maintainable. The slide was an eyesore, so this is something that we can check off the list and bring something back in a different capacity and make it better.”
The design plan for the Belle Isle Beach Renovation has been nearly finalized by Quinn Evans Architects. The concrete slab that currently houses the water slide will be turned into a patio veranda and reconnect the beach. The area will also feature a food court for food trucks. Phase two will be a beach revitalization and splash pad. The bath house will be kept and renovated.
Brown said the groundbreaking for the splash pad is a year or two out, while donations are collected to fund the project.
“We felt that a splash pad would be very beneficial to the people that are coming to the beach that may not want to go into the river, but may still want to have the water experience,” said Karis Floyd, park and recreation manager at the DNR.
A small crowd gathered in the parking lot to watch the 22-year-old slide torn down, sharing their memories of the slide and looking forward to the future of the Belle Isle and its attractions.
“It’s a little bittersweet to see it go because every time I came to Belle Isle as a child, we came to the water slide,” said Markita Powell, who used her lunch break to watch the demolition. “I’m sad my son won’t be able to experience it, but the new splash park will be something that he will enjoy. The renovation of this area of Belle Isle will make it more attractive.”