Thursday, June 26, 2014

Belle Isle Conservation Efforts Buoyed By Volunteers

Ever since Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources was appointed as caregiver of Belle Isle, I have had renewed interest in the park. Prior to this summer, I had only visited the island as part of the Tour de Troit Ride and to check out the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. I’m embarrassed to admit that horror stories about the public restrooms and the idea of swimming in the Detroit River have kept me away.

Fortunately, the DNR has been tireless in promoting the progress they've made on Belle Isle: removing hazardous trees, increasing safety with the presence of state police and state conservation officers, and improving the aforementioned “bathrooms of horror”. Even this cynic finds that kind of enthusiasm infectious. After watching featured videos on the DNR site, I decided to get involved with the Belle Isle Conservancy.

The Conservancy is actually a fusion of four former organizations: Friends of Belle Isle, Belle Isle Botanical Society, Belle Isle Women’s Committee, and Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium. Its official goal is to “work with the City of Detroit to ensure a successful partnership that coordinates both public and private support of Belle Isle as a public park,” in the areas of marketing, community engagement, research and planning, program and project implementation, and fundraising for capital projects. For those interested in furthering the mission, the Conservancy hosts a Stewardship Day on the third Saturday of every month.

Currently, the monthly Stewardship Day is focused on the removal of invasive plant species that disrupt the resident animals’ ecosystems, as part of a $470,000 grant from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. However, the day I attended was dedicated to digging up weeds and crabgrass and planting two trees in front of the Belle Isle Police Station, which will be repurposed as a Welcome Center. After three gratifying hours of working alongside devoted Conservancy members, volunteers, and DNR employees, we filled up at least three trucks worth of compost and planted two statuesque elms.

If you would like to donate time or money toward Belle Isle Park’s restoration, visit Belle Isle Conservancy. To RSVP for the next Stewardship Day on July 19th, e-mail Mebby Pearson at


1 comment:

  1. A follow up from Mebby Pearson, "This garden will be called the Rotary Native Garden and is being funded by the Detroit Rotary Club. This garden will be predominantly native species of grasses, sedges and a few flowering full sun species bordered by salt tolerant bushes since it borders a driveway. We have a full plan supported by the Rotary Club of Detroit and developed by Andy McDowell of CardnoJFNew out of Ann Arbor."