Belle Isle Park

Belle Isle Park is 982-acre park positioned along the Detroit River. The public park is located a mile from downtown Detroit, but the structure, size, open space, diversity and escape from urban life presents a juxtaposition to the fast-pace, built up city life. The park includes many attractions, such as Dossin Great Lake Museum, the Detroit Yacht Club, sports fields, fishing piers, beaches, a golf course, woods and wildlife, the oldest public aquarium in North America, Safari Land Zoo, and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory [1]. Despite its funding, maintenance and development challenges, the Belle Isle Park is consistently ranked in the top ten urban parks in America.  In 1950, Belle Isle annual visitation exceeded three million people [1].


Fig. 1:  Sketch of the Belle Isle Park. Source: Belle Isle Master Plan (2000). [1]

To eliminate the park being transformed immensely under political pressure and capital investment, a process has been put in place for evaluating the social and environmental impact of proposed changes to the park [1]. The guidelines outline that any changes should be in line with established values based on what is physically, culturally, and socially appropriate and follow the shared vision of what the park should be. This process looks at future generations enjoyment and long-term strategic renewal of the park eliminating short-term, ill-advised rushed decisions. The Master Plan, therefore, is focused on site-specific improvements that are in line with the philosophy of the park. The plan addresses all aspects of the park’s physical setting, which has been established into four planning principles: Natural Uniqueness, Historic Conservator, Learning Center and Gathering Place [1]. In strictly following the four principles, the park’s integrity will be protected.


Fig. 2: Entrance sign of the Park. Source: Belle Isle Master Plan (2000). [2]

The Belle Isle Park Master Pan was prepared from 1996-1997 over a two-year period, then in 1998 the plan was reviewed and presented to the Detroit City Council [1]. In 1999, the City Council took the plan to communities and held public discussions to familiarize the citizens with the plan and get their input. In 2000, the Master Plan was presented in two sections, the Comprehensive Renovation Plan and a Technical Assessment Report [1]. Overall, the emphasis on maintaining the park has lead to its overwhelming success.


Works Cited

  1. Belle Isle Master Plan. (2000). Hamilton Anderson Associates. Available From

List of Figure

  1. Belle Isle Master Plan. (2000). Hamilton Anderson Associates. Available From
  2. Belle Isle Master Plan. (2000). Hamilton Anderson Associates. Available From