DETROIT (WWJ) Fighting a proposal to turn Belle Isle into a state park, at least two Detroit council members started floating ideas Thursday for ways to fund improvements at the long-neglected waterfront park that has pitted city leaders against the state.
At a committee hearing to decide whether to forward the state’s lease proposal to the entire council, council members JoAnn Watson and Kwame Kenyatta said they think the park could be preserved as something solely owned by Detroit if a few money-raising ideas are pursued. The committee ruled there were too many unanswered questions about the lease to schedule it for a full council vote.
Instead, they talked about adding canoeing, horse riding, Go-Karts, ice skating and amusement park rides to generate revenue in lieu of leasing Belle Isle to the state. Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing are championing a plan to return Belle Isle to a regional treasure as a state park with a $10 entrance fee that keeps out the crime and neglect that have left many afraid to visit.
On the other side, Watson wants to dust off master plans for Belle Isle created in 1998 and 2005, but never implemented. The estimated cost was $250 million.
“The complete proposal, it has in it fund development strategies, it has a timetable, it has the long-term renovation needs of Belle Isle, and I believe it’s the ideal proposal to not only adopt, but begin to implement,” Watson said.
Councilman Kwame Kenyatta agrees, saying there are lots of ideas floating around and people ready to implement them.
“We’ve got a thrill zone, an RFP, you’ve got individuals who have been coming down here to talk about horses, you have a guy who had a Go-Kart racing business and he saw potential for Go-Karts on Belle Isle, you have ice skating out here, it could be a winter wonderland. It takes imagination, it takes vision,” Kenyatta said.