Belle Isle to become state park with $11 annual entry fee

snyder, rickBelle Isle would become a state park for 15-30 years under a plan announced this afternoon by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The lease, which was signed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and state officials, would save the cash-strapped city at least $4 million a year in maintenance costs.

To absorb those costs, the state plans to charge each car an $11 annual entrance fee beginning Jan .1 as part of the statewide Passport, which gives residents access to all of Michigan’s 101 parks.

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“One way to revitalize Detroit is by revitalizing Belle Isle, one of Detroit’s most iconic places,” Snyder said. “This state-city partnership will provide a clean, safe park environment and enhance Belle Isle for citizens while still allowing the city to retain ownership of one of its jewels. This lease will save Detroit much-needed funds as the city emerges from financial crisis and will generate economic development and neighborhood revitalization that are core to Detroit’s comeback.”

The emergency manager law, Public Act 436, gives the city council 10 days to reject the lease. If it’s rejected, the council has a week to offer an alternative plan that rakes in just as much savings.

Mayor Dave Bing said he supports the lease.

“Detroit’s current financial condition prohibits the City from investing in the much-needed restoration of Belle Isle,” Bing said. “As I stated last year when a proposed lease agreement was developed, my administration strongly believes the state park structure is the best option for managing and maintaining the island and restoring it to its grandeur.”

The lease calls for the creation of a seven-member advisory committee that will oversee improvements and master planning. The committee would include three appointments by the governor, two by the mayor, one by the city council and one agreed to by both the mayor and the governor.

Orr said the partnership is a step forward.

“This lease preserves ownership of one of city’s crown jewels with Detroiters and creates a partnership with the state to improve and invest in Belle Isle,” EM Orr said.
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“This is yet another example of how the restructuring of Detroit is continuing to improve services for the city’s 700,000 residents.”

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.