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Is Belle Isle Becoming Too Popular? State Parks Director Worries About 'Loving It To Death'

DETROIT (WWJ) Belle Isle has been booming this summer, with more people visiting the Detroit gem than at any point in recent history.

Director of State Parks Ron Olson says there have been gradual improvements in Belle Isle, now in the third summer under state management, and he says Detroiters are responding.

From 2014 to 2015 the attendance rose 32 percent over the summer months and an even bigger jump is expected this summer.

Olson says the trick now is to find a balance in having as people as possible who want to visit the island without, as he put it, "loving it to death."

"There's a tipping point where some days the park is maxed out and that's something we're looking at," Olson says.

While Belle Isle is under a thousand acres in size, it's one of the state's top parks in attendance with nearly 4 million visitors. Metro Detroit Youth Day earlier this week brought 35,000 young people to the island in one fell swoop.

It's a far different story than the one presented by Detroit City Council just two summers ago, when some council members complained that Detroiters were staying away from the park jewel under state management.

Some were concerned that ramped up policing was scaring away visitors.

Belle Isle, owned by the city of Detroit,  was is a worrying state of disrepair when the state took over day-to-day management in 2013 under a 30-year-lease. About $20 million in improvements to landscape and structures was promised as part of the deal to maintain the largest city-owned park in the United States.


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