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Council Skips Belle Isle Vote, Councilman Says It Would ‘Break’ Detroiters’ Spirit

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Detroiters rally to keep Belle Isle on August 1, 2012. (WWJ Photo/Marie Osborne)

Detroiters rally to keep Belle Isle on August 1, 2012. (WWJ Photo/Marie Osborne)

DETROIT (WWJ) A City Council vote on whether the state should run Belle Isle didn’t happen Thursday, but state officials trying to coax out a “yes” vote told council members what would happen if the plan gets the green light.

DNR Chief of Law Enforcement Gary Hagler said, if approved, you would see an infusion of nearly 28 community police officers on Belle Isle, who would work closely to help the Detroit Police Department.

“Their harbormaster needs, their dive team needs, dog and horse training needs on the island, motorcycle unit training that is conducted on the island, and other needs that are mutually agreed upon,” Hagler said, describing what would happen for police on Belle Isle if the state takes it over.

Belle Isle Conservatory President Michele Hodges says she believes the amped-up police presence would be a boon for the island.

“It’s there to try to enhance it …. To make it a very good experience so people want to come back,” Hodges said about the planned community policing effort.

But they weren’t sold, and the future of Belle Isle remains a question mark.

Council members Kwame Kenyatta and JoAnn Watson, both vocal opponents of state involvement in Belle Isle, make up a majority of the Neighborhood and Community Services Committee, which considered the Belle Isle proposal.

The Detroit News said Kenyatta spoke for nearly 10 minutes, begging colleagues to reject the proposal because he said it would “break the spirit of the people.”

The proposal calls for the state to lease Belle Isle for a decade at a time, with the city still owning the park. The  Michigan DNR would operate it and sell $11 annual vehicle passes to people who visit.

Many Detroit officials oppose the effort, saying it’s another example of the state trying to steal “jewels” from the cash-strapped city that doesn’t have the money to maintain or police the waterfront park.

The state has committed to upgrading the 985-acre park, which has blight and maintenance issues and is not a destination for many outside the city.

The City Council could take a final vote sometime next week.

 

 

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