City Council won’t give up Belle Isle, snubs Mayor Bing’s threats to close 50 parks

bellle isleA defiant Detroit City Council said today it’s determined to block any attempts to lease Belle Isle to the state, despite threats from Mayor Bing to close 50 parks without a deal with Lansing.

Council President Charles Pugh said the city can improve the nation’s largest municipal park on its own by charging entrance fees, opening up a winery and launching events such as concerts.

“I think there are a universe of opportunities that we aren’t exploring,” Pugh said. “Those conversations should be ongoing.”

A frustrated Gov. Snyder lifted his offer to take over Belle Isle for 30 years to save the cash-starved city more than $6 million a year after council refused to approve leasing the park. Two days later, we broke news that Gov. Snyder started the process of appointing an emergency manager over the city.

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson encouraged the city move beyond the Belle Isle issue because it’s dead.

“If the state took it (the lease) off the table, I don’t know why we are discussing,” said Watson, an outspoken opponent of giving up the park. “We never put it on the table. We didn’t ask them for it.”

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Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.    

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.