Belle Isle Concern calls on advocates to attend this meeting to raise their concerns about the continued use of the Island for the Grand Prix

Wants public meetings, accounting of finances for Grand Prix and all other events on island, environmental assessment, compatibility for public park


FRIDAY,  JULY 13, 2018  9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Belle Isle Boat House

Directly east of entrance, has parking lot

By Diane Bukowski and Belle Isle Concern

July 10, 2018

DETROIT — The Belle Isle Concern, a citizens group that monitors the effects  of the encroaching corporate takeover of Belle Isle, and is opposed to the staging of the Grand Prix on the Island, is asking supporters to attend the “regular” Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee (BIPAC) meeting July 13.

Michael Montri

Michael Montri, General Manager of the Detroit Grand Prix, will be presenting a Detroit Grand Prix Event Proposal during this meeting. Although public comment is limited to 3 minutes, note that the small print on the bottom indicates that is the time limit is for “non-agenda” items. ”

The Grand Prix will be included under “Upcoming Events” as listed on the agenda. Belle Isle Concern has been protesting the use of Belle Isle Park for the Grand Prix race for several years. Most other Grand Prix races are held in the downtowns of cities world-wide, as they used to be held in downtown Detroit. Belle Isle Concern says a public park is not the place for such a race.

Last fall, Belle Isle Concern presented an appeal to Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to conduct an independent third-party environmental impact study of the Belle Isle Grand Prix as part of consideration for a new contract for the race.

The DNR did not respond to their request.

But, says Sandra Novacek of Belle Isle Concern, “We are asking again for public support as we continue to struggle to reclaim the integrity of Detroit’s most precious public space. All indications now are that the DNR is poised to approve a new multiyear contract for the Grand Prix on Belle Isle with a few minor concessions.”

Previous protest against Grand Prix sponsored by Belle Isle Concern

The group is asking for the public to endorse their “Public Request to the DNR” made on June 21, 2018, send letters and emails to contacts listed at the end of the request, and speak out at the meeting of the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee meeting listed above, as well as other future meetings. 


 June 21, 2018

In MDNR surveys and public meetings, a substantial majority of park users have expressed strong opposition to continued staging of the Grand Prix on Belle Isle.  That opposition is not just because of the extended length of the race set-up and takedown time, but to the impact of the event itself on public access to the park and to the natural landscape and habitat of the island. 

Detroit youth on Belle Isle in 2012,  now run by the state. Youth like these are at peril from state troopers.

Therefore, we request that the MDNR, as leaseholders with stewardship responsibilities for this treasured piece of Detroit public property, undertake the following public steps in its process for evaluation of any request from the Grand Prix organization for a new contract for the race: 

1)      Conduct a series of public meetings, with at least one in the evening, to present the contract proposal, with members of the public allowed to ask questions and get answers from MDNR officials and staff and to have a significant opportunity for public comment (not limited to a few minutes).

2)      Provide information on rental fees the Grand Prix would pay, on amount of set-up and takedown time allowed, and on the exact area of the island occupied and for how long, including year-round storage of race-related equipment.

3)      Provide detailed financial information on park revenues from rental fees for all events—including weddings, gatherings, kayak and canoe rentals, photo shoots, and all other events that require permits or rental fees—held in each month of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Family re-union picnic on Belle Isle, 2012.  Families travel from all over the country for these events.

4)      Provide information on how future races would affect access to all areas of the park, including Scott Fountain, the Conservatory, the Aquarium, the Dossin Museum, the Casino, and the Oudolf Garden. For what specific times would access be limited or roads rerouted?

5)      Provide an explanation of how the Grand Prix comports with the criteria for major events in the Belle Isle Strategic Management Plan and on compatibility with land use for a public park. If the race conflicts with such criteria, what is the rationale?

6)      Provide a detailed breakdown of the purported contributions by the Grand Prix organization to island improvements. How much was spent by what entities on exactly what facilities on the island?

Family picnics on the Belle Isle beach in between swims with gorgeous view of downtown Detroit skyline, in 2012

7)      Provide a third-party independent environmental impact assessment of the event, including air and noise pollution, on the island’s flora and fauna, on migratory birds and threatened animals, on storm-water runoff, and on physical structures including the MacArthur Bridge and historic buildings that should be protected by the island’s presence on the National Register of Historic Sites.

In addition, we believe the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee (BIPAC) should not be the forum for any public review process of a Grand Prix contract, because the public has no meaningful voice in its meetings and there are committee members with conflicts of interest which should remove them from discussion, deliberation, and decision-making in relation to running the Grand Prix on Belle Isle. 

The Chairperson of the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee is Michele Hodges. Her paid full-time job is President of the Belle Isle Conservancy, which is supported by a Grand Prix fundraiser. 

Michelle Hodges

Bud Denker

Bud Denker of Bloomfield Hills is President of Penske Corporation and Executive Vice President of Human Resources for the Penske Automotive Group. Denker is Vice President of Penske Performance as well, a unit that oversees race teams competing under the “Team Penske” banner. Since 2006, he has served as Chairman of the Detroit Grand Prix. 

Sommer Woods, appointed by the Detroit City Council, is principal consultant at Sommer Solutions and director of external relations for M1-RAIL. Roger Penske is chairman of M1-RAIL. Woods was director of sponsorship services for the Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Committee, chaired by Roger Penske. 

Sommer Woods

Roger Penske

There are no members of the committee appointed to specifically represent regular users of Belle Isle Park. 

As Michigan taxpayers, we believe this is the minimum that the MDNR, performing proper stewardship of Belle Isle, should do to conduct a transparent public process for any approval of a contract for the Belle Isle Grand Prix in the future. 

Respectfully Submitted,

Belle Isle Concern

For further information, see

or call Sandra Novacek at 313.832.1148  

CONTACT THE FOLLOWING TO EXPRESS YOUR OPPOSITION TO HOLDING THE GRAND PRIX RACE ON BELLE ISLE                                                                           

Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Executive Division

Keith Creagh, Director                                                                                  

P. O. Box 30028                                                                                      

Lansing, MI 48909                                                                                                                                  


Ron Olson, Chief, DNR Parks & Recreation Division

P.O. Box 30257, Lansing, MI 48909-7757


Detroit City Council – (The city still owns Belle Isle)

Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Suite 1340

2 Woodward Avenue

Detroit, MI 48226                                                   

Brenda Jones, President (Member At-Large)

Mary Sheffield (District 5 (includes Belle Isle)

Related stories:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.