LANSING, Mich. (AP/WWJ) — A Michigan board has approved leasing Detroit’s 985-acre Belle Isle park to the state.
Gov. Rick Snyder and emergency manager Kevyn Orr signed a 30-year lease on Oct. 1 to make Belle Isle a state park, saving Detroit $6 million annually in maintenance. But the city council rejected the deal and instead voted for a 10-year lease.
The Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board on Tuesday went with the 30-year lease instead of the 10-year lease. The board is made up of members of Snyder’s administration.
Orr has asked a federal judge to place Detroit under bankruptcy protection.
Under the Snyder-Orr deal, Michigan would invest $10 million to $20 million over three years.
WWJ’s Mike Campbell visited Belle Isle to get opinions from a couple of regular users of the park. Al Hunt and Bobby Sullivan agreed they don’t care who runs it, as long as the park stays beautiful.
“Look at that sunrise over there! That’s God work, when you talk about nature, you just can’t beat the scenery out here as far as nature goes, but as far as bringing the island back to where it was 30 or 40 years ago, I wouldn’t hold my breath,” one of the pals said.
Belle Isle has long been a bone of contention between state leaders, who are controlling Detroit’s finances through an emergency agreement while they’re charged with leading the city through bankruptcy and back into sustainability, and city leaders. City leaders have long fought the state lease of Belle Isle, once a beautiful recreation facility, now derelict in many areas, with some saying it’s a city jewel the state wants to steal.
For its part, the state has plans to pour millions into much-needed maintenance and add security to re-invigorate the historic waterfront park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of New York’s Central Park. The state plans to fund improvements with an $11 per car annual recreation fee for those who visit the island; bike riders will get in for free.
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