Give Back To Belle Isle

As I mentioned in an earlier blog “The Sacrifice of 3 Days”, I have plenty of time for other opportunities.  I sometimes take a ride down to Belle Isle early in the day.  It”s not crowded like it is on the weekends.  Still plenty of people come down to enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities.  Joggers and walkers are the first to greet the island in the morning. I won’t get there till around noon.  I always park my van on the west side of the island, closest to the water.  This is the best view of the Renaissance Center in the city!  Whether you call it the Ren-Cen or GM Building, It is a spectacular sight towering over shimmering blue water.  I often sit there and come to the realization that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!  Las Vegas included regardless of how many times I go!  Now it’s off to Coney Island for chili fries with cheese!

For the record, I do not make a habit out of eavesdropping but I overheard a conversation that rattled me a little.  So I put my fork down and listened for a minute.  This guy  heard about possible plans to charge people a fee to gain access to Belle Isle.  He was clearly not happy about it.  He felt that Belle Isle should always be free.  I can’t really argue with him there.  Keeping Belle Isle free to the public has been one of the things that has helped the island keep its charm all these years.  It is easy to load your family and friends into a car and enjoy yourselves free of charge.

His next point turned my dial in the negative direction.”They need to put some more money into it before I pay to go on it.  Some of that stuff is terrible out there.”  He was right about the appearance.  Tops on my list is the old Belle Isle Zoo.  The zoo lays there like an old house of horrors.  Haunted by the echoes of animals long gone and decorated in slowly rotting wood.  I guess the city’s plague of empty buildings has infected Belle Isle too.  The old Aquarium is evidence of that as well as the zoo.  The Belle Isle Aquarium was home to some of the rarest fish in the world.  Also, it was the oldest continuously operating aquarium in North America until its closing in 2005.   I liked this place a lot.  Going there inspired me to have fish tanks of my own!  I liked the Electric Eel the most!  They had a light bulb rigged so that it would glow whenever the eel put out a charge! Coolest thing I ever saw as a kid!  I hope it could be brought back!

That’s why we should absolutely pay to get into the park!  The best resource to pump life into the island is the people who enjoy the island.  I don’t believe that the public would oppose, if the money made from an entrance fee was 100% invested into the island.  I sure wouldn’t mind at all.  It could serve as a living symbol of what this city can achieve when everybody kicks in.  Hopefully it can be contagious. Yes ladies! New bathrooms!  We could also rebuild the Belle Isle Zoo or draw a chalk outline around it and throw it in a body bag in favor of something new.

Don’t see it yet?  Here’s what you do. Go to Belle Isle on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It’s going to take you a while.  Traffic gets thicker the closer you get.  You can start counting cars a quarter-mile away.  Trust me you will have time, you are only going to be moving at 2 miles an hour.  If you find a place to park, get out and start counting the cars.  If you could not find a place to park, riding through works also.  You can stop at any time.  Now multiply that by…Let’s say $2 a car.  Now multiply that by the hour, then by the day, for 2 1/2 days.  This accounts for Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday.  Then times 12, representing the weekends of June, July, and August.  I know the weather may claim a few days out of the equation but you would have a rough estimate of how much money could be brought in annually, at the least.  Now think about what you could do with that money.  Get the picture now?  It could reduce the effect the island has on the city’s debt at the very least.

After you read this blog, go to Belle Isle and look around for yourself.  Imagine how much better the island would be if the money were available for much-needed improvements. Picture in your mind, people coming from all over to enjoy the new and improved Belle Isle.  Paying their way to help maintain this new and improved Belle Isle.  Better yet…imagine the satisfaction you would feel knowing that you contributed to getting it all started.  If you want to know more about Belle Isle, including tons of interesting facts that I never knew until now, check out the Friends of Belle Isle website at  Holla if you hear me!

-K. Greene

Update:   You can also contact the Belle Isle Conservancy @

To Whom It May Concern

To Whom It May Concern,

The Recession has taken a toll on America.  Jobs have been lost and salaries cut all over.  The city of Detroit, Michigan has felt it the worst of all.  Thousands of autoworkers suddenly found themselves out of a job.  For a city built on the auto industry, this is devastating.  This was also compounded by a tanking housing market.  People saw the value of their homes drop down to the price of a car.  Some would say that Detroit is a cigarette burn on the skin of America; left there by Wall Street.  I call this place home.

I cannot deny that some parts of my home may resemble that remark.  Many burned out homes still remain from past incidents.  Next to vacant lots where homes once stood.  Many abandoned business still line busy streets pointing to past glory.  A ride up Gratiot from downtown to eight mile is a reminder of that fact.  Downtown remains a hot spot in spite of  everything.  Giving citizens ample distractions from their individual plights.  Stars still come and perform to near sellout crowds.  Weekends downtown still hum with activity of all kinds.  Sports are still big.  Opening day at Comerica Park is always standing room only.  Whether or not the Tigers win is over shadowed by a great time had by all.  Red Wing Hockey games at Joe Louis Arena are still a hot ticket.  I know what you”re wondering.  How can a city hit hard by the Recession still maintain its daily routine as well as sports and entertainment?

The answer is simple.  We haven’t given up.  Our streets tell our story.  Every street here has potholes.  A nice, leisurely ride can be interrupted by the force of hitting a pothole.  Some are small and only provide a minor bump but others can be huge.  Big enough to flatten tires and cause major damage.  Life in Detroit is the same way.  We have had major potholes here.  Riots fueled by racial tensions in 1943 shook us to our core.  We later relived those riots in 1966 and 1967.  After the 1968 riot, Detroit was written off due to the amount of destruction.  As a city, we didn’t give up and continued to rebuild.  Hard working people overcoming hard times.

Kwame Kilpatrick was another pothole.  His scandal hit us where it hurt.  Leadership!  Leadership is key to all cities.  Poor leadership can hinder the growth of a city for years and Kwame put us back quite a bit.  His fall from grace happened at the worst possible time and was felt by all.  Yet new leaders have emerged in Dave Bing and Robert Bobb.  These two men are asked to make tough decisions in a time when tough decisions are needed.  I can’t say for sure I agree with all that they propose yet  tough decisions are always unpopular.  Especially where change is needed.

Our schools are going through one such change.  The Recession has given some of Detroit’s most productive citizens no choice but to leave the state in search of employment elsewhere.  Who could blame them?  The mass exodus of people leaving for jobs elsewhere has reduced the number of children going to our schools.  Giving Robert Bobb no choice but to close some schools.  Prior leadership failed us here with investigations turning up rampant misuse of public school funds.  Forcing more schools to be closed due to a broken budget.  Adults like myself have returned to classrooms across the city.  We realize the need for the training and education required to secure future employment.  Now we set our sights on degrees and certifications instead of promotions.

Road crews patch potholes on a regular basis and it is the same with us.  We patched the potholes of the riots and got back to work by reducing burned buildings to vacant lots ripe for building.  Vacant homes were rebuilt and sold as we remained prosperous working for the Big 3 automakers.  GM, Ford, and Chrysler grew as the city grew.  In the process, we lost Motown Records to Los Angeles.  Watching our Motown Sound go west was a huge emotional pothole to overcome yet we did it.  Perseverance is something we have in abundance.

This is my letter of recommendation for the city of Detroit.  Cheap riverfront property suitable for any industry with thousands of people ready, willing, and able to work.  Having survived countless obstacles to maintain a way of life, Detroit has proven itself built for the future.  The people here share a bond of hard work and determination which has been forged for generations.  We have extreme pride in our city which we shared with fans of the NFL during Super Bowl XL.  It is also that pride that you see in the eyes of everyone here.   Unbreakable under the weight of prejudice and bad press, we stand firm in our pursuit of prosperity.

Yours Truly,

Kelly E. Greene

Holla If You Hear Me