What You Told Us About Belle Isle: More Than 60 People Respond

Monday, Aug. 25, 2014

It's been about six months since Detroit passed control of Belle Isle to the state. The city leased the island to Michigan for 30 years and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources took over maintenance and policing. Last week on Detroit Today we talked about how the island has changed over the last six months -- not just cosmetically but the feeling of the place as well.

We spoke with Detroit Free Press reporter John Gallagher and President of the Belle Isle Conservancy Michelle Hodges about the park. You can listen to that conversation here.

We also put out a call for stories and opinions on how Belle Isle has changed. We received responses from Chelsea to Macomb Township, from Southgate to Shelby Township, and of course a bunch from Detroit (about a third). The map below shows where a great deal of the entries came from along with their stories. (Not every story is represented in the map, however, due to "city of residence" field left blank.)

All-in-all, more than 60 people shared stories and opinions with us on how they thought the park had changed, was that change good or bad and how often the visit. Of course this is not a scientific survey, but of those who submitted, they were overwhelmingly positive in terms of appearance. Cleanliness came up over and over again.

"I think it was good timing for the DNR. They have made some positive changes, but majority of the bigger noticeable changes lately (Aquarium, Fountain, etc.) have been in motion before the state take over, and were all thanks to volunteers," one Detroit resident told us. "I think the volunteer groups and non-DNR organizations deserve more credit than they are getting. (Btw, live in the city and go to Belle Isle a couple times a month for the past 10 years)"

"The Island is much cleaner, much nicer, and fosters much more of a positive atmosphere, than it did just a couple years ago," Will Bieke wrote us. "It's a lot cleaner, much more hospitable, and is now conducive to the type of place I would consider bringing my friends and family members. The DNR hasn't changed things much, Belle Isle has been on the upswing for the last couple of years. However, the Island has turned itself back into what it once was - an amazing quick get away from urban life. Great job!"

Of course not all of the stories submitted were glowing reviews of Belle Isle's changes.

"The inclusion of what is in essence an invading state police force and a generally unwelcoming atmosphere has kept me from going on the island since the takeover," Michael D. Russell wrote. "It was once a Detroit jewel, now it is a state republican symbol of a victory of beating Detroit into submission."

Two-thirds of the responders said they went at least monthly, if not more. The rest responded with once a year or never. Additionally, about 90 percent of those who submitted stories told us that since the takeover by the state, their attendance has either not changed or it has increased.

You can read through some of the stories in the map above. You can also continue to fill out the form and tell us if you think the changes to Belle Isle have hurt or helped the park.

We also took all of these stories submitted and threw them into a word cloud. You can clearly see how much the word "cleaner" pops up.