Family enjoys cook-out on west end of island with skyline as backdrop.

VOD editor and life-long Detroiter Diane Bukowski has bicycled around Belle Isle, near where she lives, for the last 32 years. On July 28, 2012, a beautiful Saturday, she took her camera along. While the daily media has shown photos of white folks on the beach and a pictorial history of the island beginning in 1901, her bike tour was a reality check.


Wally Safford, a Central High School alumni, at New Missionary Baptist Church picnic, seen in background, on southwest end of island.

Friends enjoy a quiet talk on the river with Windsor in the background.

Couple who were bicycling around the island take a break in the shade.

Doing the hustle at SEIU picnic and health fair near the Belle Isle Carillon.

Kids really enjoyed the dance at SEIU picnic.

Friends and family attending Smith family picnic on east end of Belle Isle.

Family picnic along cut-away to south end of island, near inland pond.

City of Detroit Public Lighting Department workers take care of streetlight. Their jobs, as well as those of hundreds of others, mostly Detroiters, are endangered by any state take-over of the island. A regional lighting authority bill in the state legislature would get rid of PLD period.

AFSCME Local 457 President Laurie Walker and class action plaintiff against consent agreement Yolanda King at AFSCME Council 25 picnic. Local 457 represents workers at the Detroit Health Department, which along with two other federally-funded departments, Human Services and Workforce Development, are being dismantled and privatized for non-financial reasons.

Kids enjoy the swings at AFSCME picnic.

AFSCME DJ tent at picnic.

AFSCME family members say NO to EM! Public Act 4, the “emergency manager act,” jeopardizes the assets, services, voting rights, and jobs of city residents around Michigan. So far, over half the state’s African-American population is under its pall.

Couple and baby view deer in pen at “Nature Zoo.” Deer lived free on Belle Isle for centuries, an attraction for families who came with their kids to feed them in the winter. Those deer were killed, allegedly due to disease, and replaced with these (ironically white) deer by Zoo Director Ron Kagan after the Detroit Zoo system was privatized.

Detroit Yacht Club on west side of island, for members and guests only. This club for the well-to-do pays only $1 A YEAR as rent to the City of Detroit. Another source of revenue: charge market-rate rent to the DYC.

Family picnics on the beach in between swims with gorgeous view of downtown Detroit skyline.

Family and friends picnic in front of former Belle Isle Zoo, closed by Kagan in order to direct funds predominantly to the Zoo in Royal Oak.

Blesset, Shaffer and Gussie family re-union at one of island’s largest shelters on west end of island near the beach.

Picnic under the willow trees with view of downtown Detroit.

Coming back, Bukowski took this photo of the section of the Riverwalk near the bridge. The Riverwalk is owned by the private Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, whose board members are primarily corporate executives.

An AP article published July 24 said:

“Efforts to complete a recreational development project along Detroit’s east riverfront are getting a $44 million boost from the federal government and the state, officials announced Monday.

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy said new partnerships and a series of construction projects will wrap up work in the area. They include the redevelopment of Mount Elliott Park, improvements at Gabriel Richard Park and expanding the reach of the Detroit RiverWalk.

The project is getting $29 million in federal highway money and a $15 million investment by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, officials said. It includes work at a site once home to a Uniroyal tire factory.”

But under Ric-tator Snyder’s administration, the state will not fund improvements on Belle Isle itself unless it takes over with a 99-year-lease.  The state already owns the Milliken riverfront park just east of the RenCen.

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  1. Caroline says:

    I agree with the concept that Belle Isle belongs to the people. There are a few things stated in this article about the zoo and the deer that are not factual.

    The zoo was closed in 2002 by the city of Detroit and Kwame Kilpatrick, not by Ron Kagan and the DZS. It was suppose to be temporary.

    In 1895, the king of France gifted 25 fallow deer to the city to start a deer park. Fallow deer come in four different shades, anywhere from white to almost black. In 1930, the deer were released to roam freely on the island. Over the decades, and strictly through breeding, the herd grew to over 400. The deer were destroying the natural habitation on the island and some were starving to death. Previous efforts to control their population failed. In 2005 the herd was enclosed in the shuttered zoo. While it is true that some were sick and were put down, the majority of the herd survived and were relocated to various places including the main zoo in Royal Oak and a deer sanctuary in Port Huron. The deer that are at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo (formerly the Nature Center) are part of the original herd and were not brought in from some other place.

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