Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10-14 Belle Isle Park, Detroit, MI

I have not been blogging for a while because I have been visiting family and friends, and don't post about them for privacy reasons.  I have been staying in my favorite Sterling State Park, south of Detroit along Lake Erie, but today I drove to a very special place in the City of Detroit--Belle Isle.  This park was acquired by the City of Detroit in 1879 and designed as a park by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed Central Park in New York. 

Here is some history:

This place has a lot of memories for me and for most Detroiters, but in the last 25 years, it has suffered from lack of money and caring.  It was filled with trash, lawns were not mown, buildings unrepaired, and generally just not a safe place to go.  During the recent bankruptcy, after much debate, it was decided to lease the island to the State of Michigan so it could become a state park and repairs and much-needed improvements made.  In the last two years, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a non-profit Belle Isle Conservancy, and donors from businesses throughout the area, have contributed to and made some substantial improvements.  The island is beginning to shine again!

Belle Isle is a 965 acre park located just east of downtown Detroit, in the middle of the Detroit River.  On one side is the shipping channel with big ships going up and down 10 months of the year.  In the photo below, you can see a ship and Canada on the opposite side of the river.

Here is a map of the island.

This photo is looking west to downtown along the river. Again, Canada is of the left, across the river.
One of the prettiest places on the island is the Scott Fountain. It is not working right now, but still is pretty surrounded by ponds on three sides. 
Last time I was here, about four years ago, the water in the fountain was green and the marble was grimy and soiled with algae.  Now it is sparkling clean, and the marble is white. Even the bronze turtles and frogs were clean and in good condition!  Someone has been busy cleaning this. 
And, here is James Scott, himself, the businessman who donated the money for the fountain. 
There is a terrific view of Detroit from the southwest end of the island, not too far from the fountain.

And my parking spot.  Obviously this was not a busy day because it was a weekday and chilly. There were a few people fishing, riding bikes, and picnicking, but mostly it was very quiet.  

It is nice to see a brand-new restroom.  There has not been a usable restroom on this island for many years, which is one reason why people have hesitated to come in the last couple of decades. 

This is the Belle Isle Casino.  No gamble and never has been, but this has been a dancehall and community center since the 20s.  

Belle Isle has the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, which celebrates the boats on the Great Lakes in this area.  Detroit was founded over 300 years ago on the Detroit River because it was a strategic location.  All of the water from three of the biggest Great Lakes must pass here on the way to the ocean.    

This is a rear view of the Conservatory.  I am going to post photos of this in a second posting today because I took so many of them.

And this is the Belle Island Aquarium.  It is small, but a nice size for a quick visit.  It was closed today, so no photos inside.

An interesting building and a sign describing its use in the past.

I was amazed that the big slide was still standing.  At least, I think it is the original big slide I remember from 40 years ago.

I remember in the 50s and 60s that they offered pony carriage rides.  These are the original stables.

And a stature commemorating Civil War soldiers and generals from Michigan.

View of downtown from the bridge on my way out.

The bridge has been repaired and new lights installed.

Driving through downtown.

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