Snyder, Bing announce Belle Isle lease - FOX 32 News Chicago

Snyder, Bing announce Belle Isle lease

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Fountain on Belle Isle (Credit: myFOXDetroit.com) Fountain on Belle Isle (Credit: myFOXDetroit.com)
DETROIT (AP) -

Belle Isle, a 985-acre, city-run park in the middle of the Detroit River, would be managed by the state for at least the next 30 years under the terms of a lease agreement announced Wednesday by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

The agreement, which Bing said would save the cash-strapped city $275 million over the life of the lease, requires the approval of the Detroit City Council.

Proposals for a Michigan takeover of the island park have met fierce opposition from some local officials who resist state control. In this agreement, Detroit maintains ownership of the park and the state would manage it.

Snyder said the agreement would boost Detroit and serve as a model for how city and state cooperation can benefit both entities.

"This is not Detroit versus Michigan. This is Detroit, Michigan," he said during a news conference at Bing's downtown office.

Ahead of the announcement, City Council President Charles Pugh said he wanted to review details of the lease in writing.

"It's not an easy decision," Pugh said. "This is a proposal."

The park has not been well maintained. Belle Isle's canals need dredging, bike paths need work and restrooms need repairs.

Under the lease, Belle Isle's operations, maintenance and improvements would be managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and be funded through the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund and through other sources, which Snyder said could include bonds and grants. And the state Department of Transportation would assume responsibility for roads and bridges on the island.

"This relationship between the state and the city is something that a lot of people have been waiting for," Bing said.

Anyone entering Belle Isle on foot wouldn't pay a fee to enter the island. Those driving a private vehicle would be required to buy a $10 recreation passport that permits entry to other state parks.

Bing said the lease deal was being presented to the City Council on Wednesday, and if implemented, would take effect on March 31, although visitors would see improvements earlier than that.

As for the 36 city workers on the island, the mayor said they would be redeployed to other city parks.

Belle Isle was laid out by landscape architect Frederic Law Olmsted, designer of New York's Central Park. It has five miles of shoreline, including a beach. There also is a small golf course, ball fields, playgrounds and picnic shelters.

The agreement is a "win-win for the city and the entire state by preserving this historic destination," the mayor said.

Separately, the Belle Isle Aquarium, closed since 2005, is set to open to the public on a limited basis beginning on Saturday. Bing is to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday. The opening was made possible via an agreement reached between the city and the Belle Isle Conservancy.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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