DETROIT (WWJ) - The days of visiting Detroit's Belle Isle park for free are coming to an end.
Starting on Feb. 10, all vehicles entering the 985-acre island park will be required to have a Recreation Passport. It's all part of a 30-year lease agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that's expected to save Detroit approximately $6 million a year.
The Recreation Passport, which costs $11 annually, is directly tied to Michigan drivers' license plate registration renewal. It provides access to all Michigan state parks and recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, boat launch and trail parking for a 12-month period.
The state plans to gradually impose the fees by delaying the requirement of purchasing a Recreation Passport until a vehicle's license plate registration is due for renewal. For example, if your registration renewal date is August 2014, then a passport is not needed on your vehicle until August. Come February 2015, all vehicles entering the park must have a Recreation Passport.
The Recreation Passport applies only to vehicles – not individuals. Pedestrians, bicyclists and those using public transportation can enter the park for free and will not need the passport. The DNR is also currently working with the city to re-establish a public bus route to the island.
The Recreation Passport is available for purchase through the Secretary of State during license plate registration renewal and is good until the next renewal date. It is also available at Michigan state parks and recreation areas. When purchased at a park, including Belle Isle, the Passport is valid only until the next license plate registration renewal date.
The Recreation Passport is $11 for Michigan-registered vehicles, $5 for motorcycles and $16.10 for buses. Non-Michigan registered vehicles will require a $31.10 non-resident Recreation Passport.
For more information about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.
Under the 30-year lease agreement, which was imposed last year by state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Detroit will maintain ownership of Belle Isle while the DNR assumes responsibility for managing the park and the MDOT takes responsibility for the roads and bridges. The lease provides for an initial 30-year term with two 15-year renewals.
Revitalization efforts are already under way at the park. Several hundred hazardous trees were felled and some ground to mulch, trails cleared of brush, a shelter re-roofed, picnic tables refurbished and refuse barrel posts anchored in the ground.
Additional immediate improvement efforts will address low-hanging fruit so the public can have a safe and comfortable park experience. Open and restored restrooms, enjoyable picnic areas and cleared trails are just some of the areas that are being handled first. Additional immediate priorities include refuse management, picnic shelter repairs, and staff hiring, which is already in progress. Assessments will also be conducted on the storm water, electrical, water, sanitary and security systems, in addition to a playground equipment assessment for quantity, safety and location.
Visit www.belleislepark.org for more information on Belle Isle's planned island revitalization.
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