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Belle Isle Park Multimodal Mobility Study

bridge over river

Belle Isle Park Multimodal Mobility Study

To help ease traffic congestion and increase public safety at Belle Isle Park, the DNR, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Belle Isle Conservancy, launched a comprehensive multimodal transportation and traffic study. Wade Trim, a metro Detroit-based engineering consultant firm, will complete the study.

The purpose of the study is to increase safety and enjoyment, improve wayfinding and ease travel for all users and modes. The goal is to develop a phased strategy for implementing sustainable improvements to better manage all modes of travel, circulation and parking on the island.

To accommodate ongoing work and ensure alignment with key partners, we've extended the mobility study completion timeline. The DNR, MDOT and the Belle Isle Conservancy will publish and share the final recommendations for implementation with stakeholders and the public. This is expected to take place by early summer 2024.

Belle Isle Multimodal Mobility Study logo with colorful lines

Belle Isle Park, a 985-acre island park located in the Detroit River near downtown Detroit, provides spectacular views of Detroit to the north and Canada to the south. It's home to the James Scott Memorial Fountain, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Ralph Wilson Gateway (which serves as the official southern trailhead for Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail), trails, a designated swim beach, picnic shelters, play equipment, a golf course and many more cultural and natural attractions.

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Proposed recommendations

A team of engineers, planners and landscape architects looked at both short- and long-term sustainable options to improve the park’s circulation, wayfinding and parking. At a July 8 public open house, 100-plus people came together to review options and provide feedback. The input we received was thoughtful and varied, but, in general, we heard a lot of support for the following proposed changes:

Following this public input phase, support for the following proposed changes were identified as:

  • Improve the MacArthur Bridge entry experience for all visitors.
  • Add new wayfinding signage to help visitors move around the island.
  • Improve designs and facilities that support safe walking and biking routes (that accommodate diverse cyclists and group sizes), such as measures to slow the speed of vehicles, improve crosswalks and incorporate additional sidewalks.
  • Turn Central Avenue into a pedestrian-focused promenade that also allows for slow-moving vehicular traffic.
  • Work with a variety of partners to continue to improve other modes of arrival to the island, including better bus routes and stops and continued discussions to determine feasibility of a ferry stop.
  • Expand promotion and awareness of the Recreation Passport.
  • Increase parking at the most popular areas, but decrease parking and pavement where it’s not needed.

Outer loop configuration

We've also heard a lot of support for keeping Sunset Drive (outer-loop road) as one-way traffic as opposed to the proposed two-way configuration. To address this feedback, our team has been working over the past several months to evaluate options to keep one-way vehicle traffic in tact, while addressing the overall goals of improving safety and enjoyment for all park users.

Watch July 8, 2023 public open house recording »

Data collection

Comprehensive data collection is key to understanding current mobility conditions and vetting possible improvement strategies. The following was collected by the project team:

  • Counts, including turning movements of vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle transportation modes at 60 intersections/driveways on the island.
  • An aerial traffic inventory study that included 38 flights over the island. Images were taken every 2 seconds and stitched together to create "hourly" aerial images of the island to help illustrate congestion points and popular areas.
  • In-person observations of how people use and move around the island.
  • Extensive discussions with staff, Belle Isle Conservancy and key stakeholders, such as the City of Detroit, island vendors and tenants, community organizations and others with specific interests in the island.
  • Inventory of regulatory and wayfinding signs.
  • Visitor-use counts via video recording for key areas including the beach, fountain, shelters, Paddock parking area and toll booths.
  • Crash analysis and conflict study to address and evaluate safety improvements.

Next steps in the study

  • The project team is currently incorporating stakeholder and public feedback into a set of final recommendations for improving park safety and access.
  • The DNR, MDOT and the Belle Isle Conservancy will publish and share the final recommendations for implementation with stakeholders and the public. This is expected to take place by early summer 2024.


Amanda Treadwell, Department of Natural Resources,

Lori Pawlik, Wade Trim,

Public engagement

  • Public feedback was attained during Round 1 (September 2022 and February 2023) via an intercept survey of park visitors and an online public survey (3,000-plus responses). In addition, stakeholder feedback was gathered at 17 stakeholder meetings that included park tenants, vendors, staff and others.
  • During Round 2 (June and July 2023), there were opportunities to comment on draft recommendations at three stakeholder meetings and the July 8, 2023 public open house. An opportunity to watch a video and provide feedback via email or phone was also provided.
  • After incorporating public and stakeholder feedback from summer 2023 engagement , the project team will meet with stakeholders to discuss the amended recommendations before drafting the final version. Park vendors, tenants, staff, key agencies and community representatives will participate in a January 2024 meeting.