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How would you revamp Belle Isle Park’s old zoo area?

proposed design them with circle boardwalk

For those interested in helping shape a long-term vision for Belle Isle Park's old zoo area, now is the time to look at student-led designs and provide initial input on plans for this storied space at the Detroit island park.

A public survey to gather that feedback is available online now through July 4.

The visioning project is a result of a long-standing partnership between the Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division.

With guidance from the National Charette Institute, MSU landscape architecture students last fall prepared and led a virtual workshop with park stakeholders. That input was used to create student-led designs built around the six broad, overarching themes developed in the workshop:

  • Honoring and exploring Belle Isle’s history.
  • Showcasing the island's opportunities for sustainable ecosystems.
  • Providing ample outdoor education opportunities.
  • Elevating creative and performing arts in nature.
  • Offering interactive outdoor adventures and concessions.
  • Making space to retreat to and interact with nature and each other.

Amanda Treadwell, urban field planner for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said the survey is just one part, but an important part, of a long-term strategy to revitalize this area of Belle Isle.

“We want to get a clearer picture about what people think the old zoo area could be. The survey is the place to let us know which themes you think are most important, as well as the public amenities and natural and built settings you most want to see,” Treadwell said. “The results will be an important starting point for more conversations to guide how the old zoo area might be used in the future.”

Survey feedback

Visitors, community members, stakeholders and others interested in sharing their input on these proposed design themes are encouraged to complete the survey by July 4. A link to the survey also is available at

People will be asked to rank the six themes in order of importance. They’ll also see several images – tied to each of the themes – from the MSU students’ design plans and be asked to share their opinion on which themes represent the best overall vision for the old zoo area.

Survey respondents will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the types of recreation activities and settings and structures they would like to see offered, too.

The survey results will be compiled with the park's multi-modal transportation, circulation and traffic management study set to create recommendations for the next phase of development. Treadwell stressed that redevelopment of Belle Isle’s old zoo area is a long-term process.

"Public input is a big part of creating meaningful public spaces, and this survey opportunity is a first step toward involving the public throughout the process as we work toward redevelopment of this historic space on Belle Isle,” she said.

For more information, contact Amanda Treadwell at 313-264-6359 or

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. 

  • ZooTheme and ZooTheme2: In a DNR survey, people will be asked to rank six themes – each tied to several MSU student design-led plan images – in order of importance for development of the old zoo area at Belle Isle Park, as well as provide other valuable input.
  • Zoo aerial.jpg: A bird's-eye view of Belle Isle Park's old zoo area.

Contact: Amanda Treadwell, 313-264-6359