Monday, August 22, 2011

Belle Isle

This weekend I took a drive to Belle Isle, the 1,000 acre mega park in the Detroit River just a couple miles from the center of downtown. It's a pretty cool place despite being a tad run down. It seems to be utilized for family reunions more than anything else, and really, that's not so bad.  From time to time, the park does attract special events and even large events, such as the old (ol') course for the Detroit Grand Prix.  Unfortunately, while it's a destination for many, the fact that it doesn't generate enough money to sustain itself is an issue for a city facing annual multimillion dollar deficits.  Not that a park should be revenue neutral, but rather, based on the adjacent land use and its proximity to...things, it'd be hard to find an equal benefit. 

Another reason that Detroit should be the studio/capstone class for any urban planning program.

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Even though Belle Isle is in need of a sprucing up, I can imagine the cost of upkeep is still very high. So there is the constant back and forth arguing over whether or not to charge admission to the park (or a toll for the bridge) and whether that will price people out or dramatically reduce utilization.

If you're interested, go ahead and take a peek at the recreation budget for Detroit.  Belle Isle Operations account for about 1 million out of 19 million. Although in fairness to my naivety, I feel like I'm missing something in my reading of the Recreation "budget". 

It's a park...parks belong to the people...It's part of being a civilized society...don't charge.

It is, however, just another example of the great things Detroit has going for it. Just think, Detroit has an island park bigger than Central Park...yea...I didn't realize that either.  The potential is amazing and there is no shortage of ideas. But it sits, in more or less the same state it has been in for years. Aging.

The gem on the gem is the Conservatory.  An interesting building indeed.  I don't know if it's beautiful, or just art deco, or what.  The lighting wasn't perfect on Saturday, but I created this from a few pictures I took on Saturday. Pretty cool, eh?


Obviously, this Detroit stuff is occupying my mind, and it's a GREAT thing to be talking about.  I want to point out a great response to last weeks post.  Check out the comment by Matt.  Spot on. Kudos.


  1. Since you've given yourself the title of "geography guy" without any type of nomination or consensus among other geography guys, I hereby name myself the geography god. You must now run all posts by the geography god (while kneeling humbly) before placing them on this blog.

  2. It's clearly defined in the bylaws. :)