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Belle Isle's gradual phase-in of Recreation Passport begins Feb. 10

Contact: Jason Fleming, 517-241-2054 or (after Jan. 17) 517-284-6098; or Ed Golder, 517-284-6241
Agency: Natural Resources

Jan. 10, 2014

On Feb. 10, 2014, the date Belle Isle becomes Michigan's 102nd state park, the gradual phase-in of the Recreation Passport requirement for island access begins. The $11 Recreation Passport offers access to all Michigan state parks and recreation areas, state forest campgrounds and boat launch and trail parking for a typical 12-month period when purchased through the Secretary of State during license plate registration renewal.

The Recreation Passport is directly tied to Michigan drivers' license plate registration renewal. Throughout Belle Isle's first year of 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.

"This gradual introduction mirrors the initial 2010 introduction of the Recreation Passport at all Michigan state parks," said Ron Olson, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) chief of the Parks and Recreation Division. "The Recreation Passport was legislatively established as a much-needed funding source for state park infrastructure improvements since no taxpayer dollars go to funding Michigan's existing state parks. Many of the state's best and most priceless natural resources are housed and protected within these state parks. Purchasing a Recreation Passport for every vehicle every year, whether or not a citizen even visits state parks, is vital to protecting Michigan's natural resources for future generations."

The Recreation 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. In addition and as outlined in the lease agreement, accepted on Nov. 12, 2013, by the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board, the DNR will work with the city of Detroit to re-establish a public bus route to the island.

The Recreation Passport is available for purchase through the Secretary of State during license plate registration renewal and is good until the next renewal date. It is also available at Michigan state parks and recreation areas and will be available for purchase on Belle Isle beginning Feb. 10. When purchased at a park, including Belle Isle, the Passport is valid only until the next license plate registration renewal date.

The Recreation Passport is $11 for Michigan-registered vehicles, $5 for motorcycles and $16.10 for buses. Non-Michigan registered vehicles will require a $31.10 non-resident Recreation Passport for entry, which can be purchased on-site or online by visiting and clicking on "State Park Recreation Passport" in the menu to the left.

The gradual transition to the Recreation Passport also incorporates island events. Because many events can be booked a year in advance, the Recreation Passport will not be required for island visitors holding or attending events reserved with the city of Detroit or the DNR on or prior to Dec. 17, 2013. This also includes smaller, private events such as weddings, reunions and birthday parties. Upon balance payment, event organizers will be given Recreation Passport vouchers for their guests. This does not include picnic shelters or pavilion rental bookings that were made after Dec. 17, 2013. Event organizers and guests of events booked with the DNR after this date will be required to purchase a Recreation Passport for vehicle access to the island.

"During the transition period with the city of Detroit, we are focusing our efforts to ensure a seamless transfer of the management of Belle Isle to the state," said Jason Fleming, DNR parks and recreation operations unit manager. "The City of Detroit Recreation Department has provided crucial park operations information and assisted greatly with the transition process, including the implementation of the Recreation Passport program.

"We recognize that many events were scheduled last year without the knowledge of a need for the Recreation Passport, and so we've developed this waiver to better serve our customers."

Ten percent of Recreation Passport revenue is available to neighborhood parks through the Recreation Passport community grants program. In 2014, 19 Michigan communities across the state will share $761,600 in Recreation Passport grants for neighborhood park improvements. Application materials for future Recreation Passport grants for neighborhood parks are available at

For more information about the Recreation Passport, visit

Belle Isle Park is currently in transition to becoming Michigan's 102nd state park. At the culmination of the 90-day transition period on Feb. 10, the city will maintain ownership of Belle Isle while the DNR will assume responsibility for managing the park according to the high standards of its award-winning state park system. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will take responsibility for roads and bridges on Belle Isle. State management of the park will save Detroit an estimated $4 million to $6 million per year.

The lease provides for an initial 30-year term with two 15-year renewals. In collaboration with the recently established Belle Isle Advisory Committee, chaired by Michele Hodges, president of the Belle Isle Conservancy and co-appointed to the committee by Gov. Rick Snyder and former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, the state will work cooperatively with partners to revitalize and improve the park.

Revitalization efforts are already under way. Several hundred hazardous trees were felled and some ground to mulch, trails cleared of brush, a shelter re-roofed, picnic tables refurbished and refuse barrel posts anchored in the ground. Additional immediate improvement efforts will address low-hanging fruit so the public can have a safe and comfortable park experience. Open and restored restrooms, enjoyable picnic areas and cleared trails are just some of the areas that are being handled first. Additional immediate priorities include refuse management, picnic shelter repairs, and staff hiring, which is already in progress. 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.

Visit for addition information on island revitalization and the transition to Belle Isle as a state park.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

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