By Vickie Thomas

DETROIT (WWJ) – Policing on Detroit’s Belle Isle remains a concern more than a month after the island became a state park.

One issue raised by Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee member Alicia Minter, head of the   Recreation Department, was complaints she’s received about “random” stops made by state police and conservation officers on the island.

Officers deny that, saying most of the stops are related to speeding.

Committee Vice Chair Rev. Lonnie Peek, Jr., said they’re obligated to adhere to the law.

“Slow it down! Slow it down — and like my man says: When the summer time comes and you’re drinking and you’re smoking weed, you’re gonna get arrested,” said Peek. “No dope, and no sippin’!”

“Now, how you gonna get up and argue, ‘Well, why don’t you let them smoke a little dope?’ he added. “What’s a little dope?”

A meeting of the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee. (credit: Vickie Thomas/WWJ)

A meeting of the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee. (credit: Vickie Thomas/WWJ)

A ban is in place on drinking and drug use on Belle Isle, although police have said there won’t be extreme enforcement of the no-alcohol policy. For example, police said, a couple enjoying some wine with their picnic would likely be left alone.

Also discussed at a meeting Thursday: an update on millions of dollars of funding for improvements on the way.

“This is our beginning, and we’ve only been at this a couple of months,” said Ron Olson, director of Parks and Recreation for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which has taken over management of the island.

“We have a potential of garnering grants, in kind efforts, partnerships, and money that’s already been set aside … It’s approaching approximately $10 million,” he said.

Olsen said that $10 million figure does not include some other grants that were garnered prior to the DNR’s involvement.

Recent improvements to the park include taking down 160 trees that were deemed hazardous in high-use areas, such as near playground equipment, refurbishing several dozen picnic tables and re-roofing a shelter.

Committee member Brian Barnhill said work being done on the island has some real economic implications.

“I want to make sure that local businesses are given the opportunity to participate in those funding opportunities,” he said, “and that local people have the opportunity to be employed as a result of the new grant funds that are going to be pursued and put to work here on the island

Under the terms of a 30-year lease, the state took control of the Detroit-owned 985-acre island park on Feb. 10.

[Catch up on this story]


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