As it happened, Sandra Turner-Handy—MEC’s community outreach director and a lifelong Detroiter—visited the island over the weekend for the first time since management by the Department of Natural Resources began. Here is her own assessment of Michigan’s newest state park.
Having grown up literally across the street, Belle Isle was my neighborhood playground as a child. My brothers and sisters and I walked across Jefferson Avenue and enjoyed the two-seat bikes, canoes, pony rides and zoo.
As I grew older and moved to a different part of Detroit, Belle Isle became the spot for family picnics on Saturdays. We stayed late into the evening to see the lights on the Scott Fountain change colors. Belle Isle was also the after-church spot, where we enjoyed ice cream treats from an island vendor. And as a teenager it was the dating spot with its beach, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, canoe rides and forest.
That slowly changed as the park lost its amenities and became overrun with trash, loud music and fights. For years I only went to the park for special events, and only in the daytime.
Last Saturday I went back to Belle Isle for the first time since the state took over in February. Because my family settled near the island after coming north from Tennessee in the early 1900s, it made sense to hold our family reunion picnic there. Read more