Detroit's Belle Isle State Park is Nearing Reality
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Gov. Rick Snyder and a majority of the Detroit City Council are on the verge of an agreement to have Belle Isle operated as a Michigan state park, city and state officials have told the Detroit Free Press.
The city council may vote on the plan as early as Jan. 29; a public hearing is expected Thursday (Jan. 24), the newspaper reported.
Key elements of the proposal, which would save the city of Detroit as much as $8 million a year in operating costs, would include a lease arrangement with 10-year renewal periods, according to officials who asked not to be quoted because some details are still being negotiated.
The city would continue to own the 985-acre island and would be able to opt out of the lease at the time of any renewal period. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources would operate it and charge a $11 annual entry fee for motorists.
Still under discussion are specifics of security arrangements at Belle Isle — what roles the Detroit Police and Michigan State Police would have, for example — and how much money from the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund and other state sources would be available for park improvements and operations.
"The governor and the mayor and the city council are now all on the same page" with regard to Belle Isle, Roger Penske said Friday, "and if that's the case, we will see enormous benefits."
Penske, the legendary owner of auto racing teams and the Penske Automotive Group, which operates 326 car dealerships, brought IndyCar Grand Prix auto races to Belle Isle in 2007-08 and revived the races under the Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix name after the three-year hiatus during the auto industry downturn.
"When we go down there for our races once a year, with just a little bit of trimming and bit of work, we start to see how beautiful that Belle Isle is. It's a crown jewel of the city, and with the state park fund and oversight, it can be amazing. It's going to be back to the level where it was many years ago," Penske said.