DETROIT (WWJ) With Belle Isle now requiring an $11 state park passport to get inside — are Detroiters making that purchase with their license plate tab renewal?
So far, the answer has been a resounding yes, DNR officials said. Before the state assumed management in February, only 8 percent of Detroit residents were buying the passports. Since then, that number has more than tripled — with close to 30 percent of Detroiters renewing tabs also buying the passports.
DNR Parks Chief Ron Olson said it’s exactly what they were hoping for.
“We were worried about having to market better, but I think through the media and other things, word has gotten out and it’s tremendous,” Olson told WWJ.
Ultimately, Olson hopes half of all Detroiters with cars will get the park passport.
The statewide average says 28 percent of people who renewed their license so far this year have gotten the passport.
“It’s tremendous to see the growth in the passports, since basically February,” Olson said.
Police on the island will be watching license plate tabs for the letter “p” to make sure everyone on the island has paid for the passport. Admission is still free if you walk, bike or take the bus to Belle Isle.
To help boost the numbers, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will hand out 1,000 state recreation passports for free this weekend.
The giveaway begins at noon Saturday near park shelter No. 9 on Belle Isle. Passports will be given to owners of the first 1,000 Michigan-registered vehicles that don’t already have them. The distribution will continue until 3 p.m. or until the maximum is reached.
There’s already been a controversy about the level of police presence since the state took over Belle Isle from the beleaguered city. City leaders have complained that too many Detroiters are being pulled over.
Police released details about 30 stops they’ve had on the island this year, including one where two men in a car pulled over for speeding both had warrants out for their arrest — one man had a felony warrant and six misdemeanor warrants; The other had a whopping 34 outstanding misdemeanor warrants for his arrest.
City Clerk Janice Winfrey complained after she was pulled over for speeding, and an officer allegedly told her he was trying to keep “riffraff” off the island. Detroit City Councilwoman Brenda Jones has been highly critical of the patrols, calling them a “disgrace.”
A rally was organized last month with the goal of protesting police presence on the formerly crime-ridden, unkempt island. The state says they remain committed to bringing it back to its former glory.