DETROIT (WWJ) – Some Detroit City Council members are concerned about reported dwindling crowds on Belle Isle since the state takeover.
Belle Isle Conservancy President Michele Hodges, who appeared before the council at a meeting Tuesday said that any decrease in visitors o the park could be a result of several issues.
“There are two reasons (why the numbers are dropping) one is just education — they don’t know ….and when there is uncertainty, people are unsure,” Hodges said.
She feels the lack of a recreation passport issued from the state and the cost could be one of the reasons fewer people attend.
Some Detroit residents have expressed concerns about policing in the park since the Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State Police took over patrols.
“There’s also concern that people may not be treated like they have been in the past – we’re very deeply committed to making sure that none of that ever happens and we are fervently monitoring that and there is no question that this conservancy is an ardent advocate for that park user,” said Hodges.
Hodges told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas that a community engagement committee would be formed to help deal with some of the concerns.
“There is nothing more important than Belle Isle to be open and available to all — it’s such an important part of Detroit’s heritage and it must continue as such,” said Hodges. “We’re very committed to making sure the community knows that and we are taking steps to ensure that that is the case.
Earlier this month, WWJ reported that the golf course on Belle Isle was struggling to meet pre-state ownership numbers:
General Manager and owner, Dave Coy said business at the course is down by an estimated 60-70 percent since the state has taken over the island.
“I really think it turned out to be more of an issue of just the policing; there are positives, it’s safer, there are bad guys that are gone, you know, the partying is gone. I used to find liquor bottles up and down the front of my facility on a daily basis – whether they were broken or just thrown in the grass and I don’t hardly find a bottle anymore – I like all that, but it’s really, really been a crushing blow to the business,” said Coy.
On the issue of policing, Coy does believe that’s part of the problem. He said a couple junior groups have notified him that, after years play at the golf center, they won’t be returning because parents have said they don’t want to be “harassed.”