Huffpost Detroit

Belle Isle To Become State Park Under Proposed 30-Year Lease Agreement

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BELLE ISLE STATE PARK DETROIT
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced a proposal for the state to lease the city's Belle Isle park for 30 years on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. City Council will have to vote in favor of the proposal. | Alamy

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced a plan Wednesday for the state to lease Belle Isle, the country's largest city-owned park, for 30 years.

According to the Detroit News, Snyder promised an investment of "millions" as the state takes over upkeep and operation of one of the city's prized natural resources. The park currently costs the city $6.2 million annually.

"Establishing Belle Isle as a state park provides needed financial relief to Detroit without it relinquishing ownership, brings long overdue restoration and enhancements to the park, and guarantees a beautiful place for Michigan residents to enjoy for decades to come," Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder earlier put forth the idea of a 99-year lease, which Bing and City Council soundly rejected. The current proposal includes two automatic 30-year renewals unless either the City or state decide to discontinue the agreement.

Under the proposed deal, the Department of Natural Resources would operate the park. Beginning March 31, 2013, cars entering the park would need to purchase the $10 annual pass that allows access to all state parks. Entry would continue to be free for pedestrians and bikers. The fee has been one of the largest points of contention -- see below for reactions to the proposed deal.

City Council will have to pass the agreement for it to take effect, and it is not known what the next step will be if they reject the deal. In July, Council passed a resolution 5-4 urging Bing to keep the park under city control.

City Council President Charles Pugh voted in favor of the resolution at the time, but also said he wanted a solution that would improve the park for residents without handing long-term control over to the state.

"For me that's a priority, fixing Belle Isle," he said in a YouTube video. "It should be a destination. It should be one of the attractions for coming to Detroit."

While many have objected to what has been called a "state takeover" of Belle Isle, the City would officially retain ownership, and could terminate the lease for cause.

Under the proposed agreement, an 11-member board appointed by Bing, Snyder and Council would oversee planning and improvements. The draft suggests fixing up existing buildings, reopening the boathouse and canals, planning more recreational activities and keeping beaches and restrooms clean.

The Michigan Department of Transportation would be responsible for road and bridge maintenance, and there is a possibility the board would work to re-establish a city bus route servicing the island. The 36 city workers currently detailed to Belle Isle would instead work at other city parks.

Though the proposal has not been passed, Belle Isle has already seen one recent major improvement. After being closed for years due to budget constraints, the aquarium received repairs to the roof and windows and will reopen on Saturdays beginning this weekend.

See reactions to the announcement from Twitter:

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Twitter Reacts To Proposed 30-Year Lease Of Belle Park In Detroit
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