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Belle Isle, Questions and Answers

Recreation Passport

Events (Weddings, Picnics, Reunions, Birthday Parties, Etc.)

Park Rules

Public Safety Efforts

Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee

Hazardous-tree Removal

Revitalization Efforts

Partnerships

Lease Terms and General Management

Recreation Passport

Will I need a Recreation Passport to access Belle Isle Park?

  • Vehicle access
    A Recreation Passport is required when accessing the island by vehicle.
  • Pedestrian access
    The Passport applies only to vehicles - not individuals. Pedestrians, bicyclists and those using public transportation can enter the park for free and will not need the Passport.
  • Bus transportation
    The Department of Natural Resources is working with the city of Detroit to re-establish a public bus route to the island. Although the bus will need a Recreation Passport for entry, those riding the bus will not.
  • Access now through January 2015
    The Recreation Passport is directly tied to your Michigan vehicle license plate registration renewal. Throughout Belle Isle's first year of the Recreation Passport requirement, a vehicle can access the island without a Recreation Passport until the owner's next registration renewal date. For example, if a vehicle license plate registration renewal date is August 2014, then the Passport is not needed on that vehicle until August. Likewise, if the renewal date is December 2014, then the Passport is not needed until December. Once a full year has cycled (February 2015), all vehicles entering the park must have a Recreation Passport.

What is a Recreation Passport?

The Recreation Passport, introduced in 2010, is a new way to fund programs for state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds and non-motorized trail head and boat launch parking and to assist in improving state historic sites and your neighborhood and city parks.

How long is my Recreation Passport valid?

For Michigan residents, the Recreation Passport is valid until your vehicle's next license plate registration renewal date. This includes both Recreation Passports purchased through the Secretary of State or at a state park or recreation area.

How much does a Recreation Passport cost?

  • Michigan-registered vehicles: $11
  • Michigan-registered motorcycles: $5
  • Non-Michigan registered vehicles: $31
  • Non-Michigan registered vehicles daily pass: $9 (Daily passes are not available for Michigan-registered vehicles.)
  • Buses: $16

Where can I purchase a Recreation Passport?

  • Secretary of State
    Check "YES" for the Recreation Passport when renewing your license plate registration with the Secretary of State. Renewal options with the Secretary of State include in-person at branch offices or by kiosk, online or mail.
  • State parks or recreation areas
    Recreation Passports are available at state parks and recreation areas, including Belle Isle Park.
  • At Belle Isle Park
    Recreation Passports at Belle Isle Park are available for purchase in a mobile contact station identified with a DNR logo, located in front of the second loop connecting Sunset Drive and Picnic Way just north of the McArthur Bridge. This is a temporary location. A permanent on-island location will be identified soon.
  • Non-Michigan registered vehicle purchase options
    Owners of non-Michigan registered vehicles can purchase a Recreation Passport at a state park or recreation area - including at Belle Isle Park - or online at www.michigan.gov/estore. Recreation Passports are not available online for Michigan-registered vehicles.

Where can I go with the Recreation Passport?

You gain access to all state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds and non-motorized trail head and boat launch parking. This access includes many state parks - in addition to Belle Isle Park - in the metro Detroit area: Bald Mountain Recreation Area, Dodge 4 State Park, Highland Recreation Area, Island Lake Recreation Area, Maybury State Park, Milliken State Park, Proud Lake Recreation Area and Sterling State Park.

How will the Recreation Passport be verified?

If you purchase your Recreation Passport when renewing your license plate through the Secretary of State, the Recreation Passport is displayed as two small "P's" on the top and bottom of your license plate tab. If you purchase your Recreation Passport at a state park or recreation area, you will receive a vehicle window sticker. If you purchased a non-resident annual or daily Recreation Passport, you will receive a vehicle window sticker. Park rangers will verify Recreation Passports during or after island entry.

My car is registered out of state. Do I need a Recreation Passport?

Yes, your vehicle still requires a Recreation Passport. A non-Michigan registered Recreation Passport can be purchased online at www.michigan.gov/estore or on the island at the mobile contact station on Belle Isle, located in front of the second loop connecting Sunset Drive and Picnic Way just north of the McArthur Bridge. The non-resident Recreation Passport is $31.00 or, for a daily, $9.00.

Can I obtain a Recreation passport that is not linked to my vehicle?

No, the Recreation Passport is directly tied to your license plate registration renewal. Even when obtained as a vehicle window sticker when purchased at a state park or recreation area, the Recreation Passport is valid until your next license plate registration renewal date. In the case of non-Michigan registered vehicles, the Recreation Passport gains access through the remainder of the year.

I am coming to the island with a group on a bus. Do I need a Recreation Passport?

No, although Recreation Passports are required for all vehicles, they are not required for individuals. Recreation Passports for buses can be purchased for $16.00.

I am traveling to the island for a wedding, picnic, or special event. Do I need a Recreation Passport?

Yes, however there are exceptions in 2014. Please refer to the Events section for detailed information.

I am traveling to the island to visit an established attraction such as the Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Belle Isle Nature Zoo, or Dossin Great Lakes Museum? Do I need a Recreation Passport?

Yes, all vehicles accessing the island will need a Recreation Passport. However, there are exceptions for 2014. Throughout Belle Isle's first year of the Recreation Passport requirement, a vehicle can access the island without a Recreation Passport until the owner's next vehicle registration renewal date. For example, if a vehicle license plate registration renewal date is August 2014, then the Passport is not needed on that vehicle until August. Likewise, if the renewal date is December 2014, then the Passport is not needed until December. Once a full year has cycled (February 2015), all vehicles entering the park must have a Recreation Passport.

I'm a member of the Detroit Yacht Club. Do I need a Recreation Passport?

Yes, if you drive your vehicle on the island, you will need a Recreation Passport for that vehicle. For 2014 exceptions, please see When can I purchase a Recreation Passport.

Can I purchase a daily Recreation Passport?

Daily passes are not available to Michigan-registered vehicle owners. Daily passes are available for owners of non-Michigan registered vehicles. You can purchase a non-resident daily pass at a state park or recreation area for $9.00 or online at www.michigan.gov/estore.

I already have a Metropark pass. Do I need Recreation Passport too?

Metropark passes gain access to Huron-Clinton Metroparks but not state parks such as Belle Isle Park. The Recreation Passport gains entry to all Michigan state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, non-motorized trail and boat launch parking, including Belle Isle Park.

Why should I purchase a Recreation Passport if I don't plan on visiting state parks or other state recreational facilities?

Purchasing a Recreation Passport for each of your vehicles every year is investing in Michigan and ensuring its spectacular natural resources for generations to come. By checking "YES" for each of your vehicles every year you:

  • Fund outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities;
  • Fund state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, non-motorized trail heads and boat launches;
  • Support historic sites within state parks;
  • Provide grants to communities to improve neighborhood parks, such as those in Detroit;
  • Stimulate hundreds of millions in economic impact for local communities from tourism, including businesses in your hometown;
  • Contribute to local economies near state parks, state forests, trails and boating facilities;
  • Attract new businesses and jobs to the state;
  • Enhance the quality of life for Michigan's residents;
  • Assist in the revitalization of Michigan and;
  • Protect our natural resources for generations to come.

Where can I learn more about the Recreation Passport?

Visit www.michigan.gov/RecreationPassort and click on "Frequently Asked Questions."

Events (Weddings, Picnics, Reunions, Birthday Parties, etc.)

I made an event reservation with the city of Detroit prior to Belle Isle Park becoming a Michigan state park. Who do I contact for questions related to previous bookings?

The DNR will contact existing reservation holders to answer questions and provide additional information, including deposit procedures and the distribution process of Recreation Passport vouchers, which will be issued to event hosts and their guests who made event reservations on or prior to Dec. 17, 2013.

I want to have an event on Belle Isle. Who do I contact for rates and reservations?

To make an event reservation, contact Milliken State Park and Harbor staff at 313-396-0217. Event reservation procedures and rates have remained unchanged for 2014. You can find this information at www.BelleIslePark.org and by clicking on Event Reservation Information.

I want to make a shelter reservation. How do I do this?

Shelter reservation procedures remain unchanged in 2014. These reservations will be taken in-person on a first-come, first-served basis from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 24-26 at the Belle Isle Casino.

Shelter Reservations on:
March 24 - July reservations taken
March 25 - August reservations taken
March 26 - Portions of May, June, September, October and remaining July and August reservations taken

After the March 24-26 in-person reservation period, shelter reservations can only be made using the CRS. Reservations will not be taken by other means. This is consistent with shelter reservation procedures throughout the Michigan state park system. Shelter reservations will not be taken between March 27 - April 14 during the transfer of the shelter reservation process to the CRS.

Beginning April 15, 2014, all Belle Isle Park shelter reservations will be taken through the DNR-administered Central Reservation System (CRS). The CRS manages state park camping, lodging, shelter and harbor reservations. CRS-managed shelter reservations can be made for dates up to one year in advance. For more information on shelter reservations, visit www.BelleIslePark.org and click on "Shelter Reservations" at the bottom of the page.

I'm attending an event on the island. Do I need a Recreation Passport?

It depends on when the event was booked. If you made the event reservation on or prior to December 17, 2013, event organizers will be given Recreation Passport vouchers for themselves and their guests. A DNR staff member will be contacting all event hosts shortly to provide information on Recreation Passport vouchers.

For events booked after December 17, 2013, event organizers and their guests will need to purchase Recreation Passports for island entry.

My event ends after 10 p.m. Am I still permitted to remain on the island after the event ends?

No, once the event is over, please leave the island.

Where can I find more information about events, including 2014 rates?

Visit www.BelleIslePark.org and click on "Event Reservation Information" for further details.

Park Rules

What are the park rules?

To ensure a smooth and seamless transition to Belle Isle as a state park, the DNR has adopted the current island park rules, which are similar to other state park rules and regulations. Assessment of the park's rules and procedures will occur throughout 2014 to better understand the island's use and determine the best means for providing a clean and safe environment, while meeting the needs of visitors.

What are park hours?

Park hours remain unchanged; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
State park staff, including a park supervisor, rangers and support staff, will offer a heightened customer-service presence on the island during these hours of operation.

Patrons attending special events that commence after 10 p.m. are asked to immediately leave the island at the conclusion of the event.

Is alcohol allowed in the park?

The DNR has adopted the current rules for the island which prohibit alcohol consumption except by permit. This and other rules are being reviewed and assessed. The rule could change in the future.

Public Safety Efforts

Are there security patrols on the island?

Yes, security patrols on Belle Isle - conducted by the DNR's Law Enforcement Division conservation officers in conjunction with Michigan State Police troopers - are occurring year-long around the clock.

Is there a gate at the island entrance?

No, there is not a gate. The island is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and visitors are asked to respect park rules by leaving the island at close. At 10 p.m., security personnel are stationed at the island entrance to enforce park hours. DNR Law Enforcement Division conservation officers and Michigan State Police troopers are on the island around the clock.

Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee

What is the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee?

The Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee was established as an advisory committee of seven members in the lease between the City of Detroit and the state. The committee, as outlined in the lease, consists of three representatives appointed by the governor; one representative appointed by Detroit City Council; two representatives appointed by the mayor of the city; and one representative to serve as chair jointly appointed by the governor and mayor. The lease states that at least three members of the advisory committee must be residents of the city of Detroit. The chair of the committee, along with the DNR, will provide an annual report about the park to Detroit's mayor and City Council.

Who serves on the committee?

The following individuals serve on the advisory committee:

  • Michele Hodges, chair, Grosse Pointe Park, appointed jointly by the governor and mayor
  • Bryan C. Barnhill, II, Detroit, appointed by the governor
  • Michael Curis, Grosse Pointe Shores, appointed by the governor
  • Rev. Lonnie Peek, Jr., Detroit, appointed by the governor
  • Bud Denker, Bloomfield Hills, appointed by the mayor
  • Alicia Minter, Detroit, appointed by the mayor
  • Sommer Woods, Detroit, appointed by the Detroit City Council

Can I attend a committee meeting?

Yes, advisory committee meetings are open to the public.

Where can I find out more information on the committee, including meeting dates and locations?

Visit www.BelleIslePark.org and click on the Advisory Committee link at the bottom of the page.

Hazardous-Tree Removal

Why were hazardous trees removed from Belle Isle?

Hazardous-tree removal occurred on Belle Isle in December and January to preserve public safety around trees at high-use areas of the park. All trees have the potential to fall during extreme weather events such as high winds and ice storms. However, dead trees and trees with significant defects such as decayed wood, heart rot, weak branch unions, dead tops/branches and root problems may fail even on calm days. Hazardous trees near picnic tables, roadways, playgrounds, buildings, bridges or places where people gather are of increased concern.

Are trees removed for timber?

No, trees are not removed for timber. Only trees presenting a risk to public safety are removed. Much of what is being removed cannot be used for timber because of rotten wood or metal in the wood.

How many trees were removed from Belle Isle?

Nearly 200 hazardous trees have been removed from Belle Isle.

How are trees deemed hazardous and who removes them?

DNR Forest Resource Division staff trained in hazard tree assessment evaluated trees using a United States Forest Service protocol. Trees were visually inspected for structural defects, hollow cavities and root defects. Trees with cracks, signs of heart rot or healed wounds, obvious or suspected cavities were drilled with a small diameter bit to determine if enough sound wood remained to reasonably support the tree. If there was not, the tree was marked and then removed by DNR Forest Resource Division forest fire officers. More information about the protocol used to evaluate the soundness of Belle Isle's trees, please visit http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/uf/utrmm/.

Why shouldn't visitors continue the practice of emptying their burning charcoal from picnic grills at the base of trees?

On Belle Isle, a large numbers of trees have been unknowingly injured by the local practice of emptying burning charcoal from picnic grills at the base of living trees. The hot coals kill the growing cambium layer of the tree's trunk and roots. Eventually the damage will compromise the structural integrity of the tree. Many of the hazard trees being removed were damaged by repeated exposure to burning charcoal.

Will trees be replanted?

The DNR Parks and Recreation Division is currently exploring partnerships to plant replacement trees, including donations and expanding the existing partnership with the Department of Corrections' horticulture training program, which grows native landscape trees for planting in Michigan state parks.

Revitalization Efforts

What has been done already to revitalize Belle Isle?

The DNR, along with partners, began revitalization efforts shortly after the start of the 90-day transition to Belle Isle as a state park, which began in November 2013. In December alone, Department of Natural Resources staff and partners worked to fell about 160 hazardous trees, with some ground to mulch, re-roof a shelter, refurbish picnic tables with replacement boards and place posts in-ground to serve as refuse barrel anchors.

What revitalization efforts will begin soon?

Current efforts
Park improvement efforts will address immediate needs so the public can have a safe and comfortable park visit. Open and restored restrooms, enjoyable picnic areas and cleared trails are just some of the areas that will be handled first. Hazardous tree removal is also on the priority list. Trees at risk of falling or dropping large limbs will continue to be removed to increase the safety of Belle Isle visitors and to protect buildings and bridges.

Additional needs include includes refuse management and picnic shelter repairs. Assessments will also be conducted on the storm water, electrical, water, sanitary and security systems, in addition to a playground equipment assessment for quantity, safety and location.

First six months
Within the first six months, buildings such as the casino, athletic shelter/refectory and Flynn Memorial Pavilion will be retrofitted with energy efficiency updates.

Additional short-term action items include:

  • Prioritization of structured repairs such as roofs, foundations and exterior walls
  • Maintenance schedules and repairs of historical structures
  • Expansion of picnicking areas
  • Maintenance of trails and signage
  • Enhancements of fishing opportunities at existing structures

Partnerships

What are the roles of the City of Detroit, the DNR, the Belle Isle Conservancy and other state and partner organizations?

The City of Detroit maintains ownership of Belle Isle while the DNR assumes park management under a 30-year lease term with the option of two 15-year renewals. The Michigan Department of Transportation assumes responsibility for roads and bridges on Belle Isle. The Michigan State Police, in conjunction with DNR Law Enforcement Division conservation officers, patrol Belle Isle for public safety. The Belle Isle Conservancy, Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee and many other organizations continue to partner with the DNR to revitalize the island park.

Is the DNR engaged in partnerships for Belle Isle revitalization?

Yes, the DNR knows that partner support is key to park revitalization. More than 40 organizations - including businesses, nonprofit groups and representatives from local, state and national government - came together on Belle Isle Dec. 10 during an "All In For Belle Isle" partnership event to pledge commitments to island revitalization. They have pledged contributions ranging from volunteer assistance to funding and resources.

Lease Terms and General Management

When did Belle Isle become a state park?

Belle Isle Park - which retains its name - became Michigan's 102nd state park on Feb. 10, 2014 when the DNR assumed management of the island park.

How will state management of Belle Isle benefit Detroit?

Revitalizing Belle Isle - one of Detroit's most iconic locations - is one key to revitalizing the city. The lease agreement paves the way for a clean, safe park environment and will enhance Belle Isle for citizens of Detroit and the entire state. This move will save Detroit much-needed funds as the city emerges from financial crisis and will generate economic development and neighborhood revitalization that is core to Detroit's comeback. A revitalized Belle Isle will potentially draw new residents - including young people - to downtown Detroit.

How much will the state invest in the park?

The state will commit considerable resources, including $2.5 million in General Fund dollars for the fiscal year 2014 budget. The DNR will use the expertise of its parks, wildlife, fisheries and forestry staff and partners to revitalize the park. In addition to these General Fund dollars, funding will come from leveraging a variety of sources, both private and public, including state, federal and foundation grants plus in-kind donations and contributions from partner and corporate organizations.

Belle Isle was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880s and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Isn't the city giving up one of its most treasured assets?

Not at all. Under the lease terms, the city will retain ownership of Belle Isle while the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will manage the park consistent with the standards of its award-winning state park system. The DNR will utilize the adopted 2005 Belle Isle Master Plan as a guide for park improvements. The Michigan Department of Transportation is developing an asset management plan outlining short- and long-term strategies to maintain the roads and bridges. MDOT will assume responsibility for roads and bridges on Belle Isle, using Act 51 funding derived from roads and bridges on the island. In addition, the lease requires operations and improvements to be addressed in a manner consistent with any requirements associated with historic or other designations.

Will the city be paid for state management of Belle Isle?

No rent is paid for the lease. Operation, maintenance and improvement projects are considered compensation. The island will transfer back to city management upon termination of the lease.

What is the lease term?

The initial term of the lease is 30 years, with the option to extend for two additional 15-year periods. The lease can be amended at any time under agreement of the state and City of Detroit. The state will continue to work with the City of Detroit to perfect the lease over time. The city and state can end the lease at any time by mutual agreement. One year prior to the end of the 30-year lease period, the city or the state can terminate the lease by providing written notice. The same option will be available one year prior to the end of each subsequent 15-year period. The city or state can terminate the lease for cause if the other party fails to fulfill the terms of the lease. The state will provide the mayor and Detroit City Council annual reports, updating them on management of the park.

Will the state get to keep money generated from Belle Isle?

Park revenue from permit fees, rental fees, special events, grants, endowments and other sources that derive from Belle Isle will be placed in a special sub-account in the Department of Natural Resources State Park Improvement Fund to administer, maintain and improve Belle Isle Park. This does not include Recreation Passport revenue. The balance of that sub-account will transfer to the city upon termination of the lease.





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