Update October 2014
I went to Belle Isle over the summer. It looked like hell. Across from the Yacht Club cars were parked on the grass white trash style for $10 a car. (Pay to park on Belle Isle! NEVER.) The playscape had broken pieces, of particular concern are those things with the heavy bottom piece that swings when the chain is broken and the chains that kids climb were broken. Garbage was everywhere. It was a Saturday evening and the prowling police, so I've heard from EVERYWHERE, seemed to have scared everyone off the island. There was a weird hush on the island. ON A WARM SATURDAY NIGHT IN DETROIT???!!! The garden planted at the tip when you first go on near the brick restrooms was completely ripped out with healthy weeds enjoying the soil. And the Verizon tower by the fountain is an abomination. It was disgusting. To all the people that said the state knows how to run things, Detroit doesn't know how to run things, I LAUGH IN YOUR FACE. It enrages anyone who has grown up loving Belle Isle. Below is the original post. So, so sad.
My grandparents came to Detroit from Ohio for their honeymoon just to visit Belle Isle. I grew up going on field trips to Belle Isle. The trips were inexpensive, close by and full of fun. As as adult, I use it to keep fit through walking and biking. A lot of people have misconceptions about the island. I take as many people as I can there to clear those up. I have explored most of the island and so have a lot of ideas of what could be, but isn't. Part of me would hate to change Belle Isle because for me it is peaceful and lovely just as it is. However, I know that it could be much more fun, more beloved, and a money maker without charging a fee to go on. We can have partnerships to make these things happen while still being in control of the park and not change its essential "Detroitness". Having traveled around the world I know Belle Isle is one of the most beautiful parks on earth, not just in Detroit. NO, it should not be a state park - Detroit should have that revenue and it should not be any closer to Snyder and friends for their severely misguided awful condo commonwealth. For more on this, visit this post.
1. I think most people's first concern is the trash. The trash is mostly where people fish, mostly because there are not garbage cans near the fishing spots. More garbage cans would clear up a lot of the garbage. I wonder why the groups doing court ordered community service don't help clean it up?
2. Grass cutting. There is an awesome amount of grass on the island. Parts of it may be replaced with low growing ground cover and even used as an example for homeowners who may want to switch to ground cover from grass.
3. The old zoo. I think that in an urban area where children are more disconnected from nature there needs to be areas where kids interact with animals. Having taken many field trips with children, I know this is true. There should be a well staffed petting zoo on Belle Isle like the one at Kensington Metropark Farm Center. Also, Belle Isle was just made for horses. Why not basic riding lessons, pony rides, and trips around the island in horse drawn carriages? We can charge for these things and make them pay for themselves. There could be free days for people who can't afford it, and discounts for groups of children from schools where many of the children are below the poverty line. There could be sliding scales. Kids still love a pony ride on their birthday and that should be accessible to everyone. There are a lot of possibilities and I am open to them.
4. The nature trails. A lot of people do not even know they are there. They need a lot of love, but they are wonderful little retreats. In the summer, it smells like you are fully in the woods, but when you come out, bam! the city. They just need a little work on the bridges, the pavement and cutting back the trees. A warning sign about poison ivy would be nice for people who may not know. As well, signs about the types of birds and turtles that live there would be welcome. More guided walks would be great. Once I went with the Detroit Garden Center and MSU and it was fascinating. Who knew that in early spring there are pitcher plants in there?
5. Canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and paddle boats for rent. I do not know why there is not a rental place on Belle Isle like there is at Stony Creek Metropark or Gallup Park in Ann Arbor. I am not sure of the condition of the all the wonderful little lakes, but they seem to be all connected for hours of fun. I have seen those swan paddleboats on occasion and there is the rowing club, but that's it. It could be so much more. Again, this would make some money. We could ask the other parks how much they make off the boats.
6. Bike rental. Why doesn't the City rent bikes there? This then opens the door for guided tours of the island that they could easily charge for. Again, a way to make money.
7. The beach. How I would love to swim at that beach. However, a few years ago I called around and maybe ended up at the health department and they explained that the water moves very quickly there so testing is questionable. They just test before they open the beach in May. In Canada at Sandpoint Beach on the Detroit River, they test the water each week and post the results at the beach and on line. This needs further research. Please let me know if you know more or if I am wrong. I would love love to be wrong.
8. The bandshell. There should be music there every Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday nights. Why isn't there? That would also be a way to make money. This could be a place to showcase local talent.
9. The conservatory. They offer inexpensive weddings there. This should be promoted and put into packages for people.
10. The Dossin Museum. What a little gem. Kids have always loved that museum. Its too bad that the Diamond Jack doesn't stop there so it could be a really fabulous package tour.
11. The tennis courts. The City should give lessons there. Drop-in and scheduled all the time.
12. There should be a bus that goes to Belle Isle. I do not know why the city stopped that bus, but there should be one.
13. Concessions. You get hungry on Belle Isle. There is a lot of money to be made from food for the City. There should be ONLY healthy choices, especially near the playscape. It is an ideal place to promote healthy eating since so many people come there to get fit.
14. A welcome center. Of course there needs to be one. First time guests to the island have no idea what they can see or do. There should be a welcome center like the one in Windsor by the tunnel, only a mini-version. This should be a branch of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
15. Ice Skating. There should be skating and skate rental if the pond near the ice skating building would ever freeze enough.
I am sure I will add more. I welcome your comments and ideas.