Mayor Dave Bing still hasn't reached a decision regarding control of the Parks & Recreation Department's crown jewel -- the 932 pastoral acres of Detroit's Belle Isle.
That didn't stop the Detroit City Council from voting 5-4 Tuesday to approve a resolution urging the mayor not to take action on any plan that could remove control of the island recreation area from Detroiters. The resolution was sponsored by Councilman Kwame Kenyatta and opposed by members Saunteel Jenkins, Gary Brown, James Tate and Andre Spivey.
"We can't afford to wait and see what's going to happen," said Councilwoman Jo Ann Watson during the meeting. "We've gotta act now."
Belle Isle is America's largest city-owned park. And while ownership almost assuredly won't change, a recommendation from Detroit's Financial Advisory Board, which was appointed as a result of the consent agreement, could possibly place the park's day-to-day operations in the hands of the state or a private outfit.
"Mayor Bing is not concerned with the politics of the resolutions, only in having one of Detroit's greatest assets be well-maintained for the citizens of Detroit and visitors alike," said Naomi Patton, Bing's spokeswoman, in a statement to The Huffington Post.
The state of Michigan has previously offered to lease the park for 99 years, a plan Mayor Bing has reportedly resisted. In a rare display of public testiness, he told the NAACP during a speech Tuesday that the state has pushed for the lease without providing more details about their plans.
"Even if we thought about signing something like that, it's got to come with some conditions," he said. "What are you going to invest? What are you going to fix? … tell us that," reports the Detroit News.
According to reports, the state would impose a $10 license fee on all cars that enter the park, as is standard at all DNR-managed parks across Michigan.
The exact wording of Detroit's Financial Stability Agreement calls for the City to create park funding for Belle Isle while continuing ownership, "by designating Belle Isle as a part of a cooperative relationship with Milliken State Park. This would include a long-term lease that would accrue the cost of the park’s maintenance and improvements out of the Park Endowment Fund. We will partner with Belle Isle Conservancy and the City to implement a master plan for the Island."
Several private and nonprofit ventures that could possibly create more revenue for Belle Isle have stalled in the past two years, including an MEDC-backed pitch for a private winery on the island and a public disc golf course. The Belle Isle Aquarium opened for one day in February 2012, receiving 2,500 eager visitors. But it still hasn't opened to the public on weekends, a major goal for supporters of the Belle Isle Conservancy.
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