Welcome to Belle Isle Concern

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Top five reasons to oppose the Grand Prix on Belle Isle (PDF)

The Aftermath: How about a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Belle Isle Park, Grand Prix?

Ralliers Say, "NO Grand Prix on Belle Isle!"

Thank you, Ralliers! Nearly 60 of you from ages 11 to 94 sacrificed a chunk of your holiday weekend and united with enthusiasm and clever and colorful signs that clearly protested the running of the Grand Prix on Belle Isle Park.

"Roger Over & Out! No Grand Prix it Stinks Like ____! Nature, Not Car Races! Picnics Not Pit Stops! "

Protester 94 year old Harriet Berg didn't have a sign, but she did have a message, "It's my park. . .and I want it back! she proclaimed. We want "your" park back, too, Harriet! Let's keep up the momentum and reclaim Belle Isle! Photos: Lucille Nawara

You've Got to See It to Believe It!

Unless you come to see it for yourself, it’s hard to believe how terribly Michigan allows one of the most unique parks in the world to be misused each spring. Belle Isle, situated on a beautiful international waterway, has 982 acres of woodland, canals, picnic areas, beach and shoreline, gardens, an aquarium, statuary, a maritime museum, and a photogenic fountain. It’s long been a place for family reunions, weddings, biking, walking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, and quiet contemplation as majestic freighters glide by. But from mid-April into June, the most popular and accessible part of it is degraded by concrete barriers, fencing, grandstands, VIP tents, trucks, and ugly advertising banners. The Detroit Grand Prix, a project of the logistics firm run by Roger Penske, takes longer to set up and take down than any race in the world—park users be damned. They’re condemned to week after week of a corporate takeover that transforms a lovely public refuge, which is bigger and older than New York’s Central Park, into a billionaire’s private racetrack. And it’s all with the blessing of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources—which last year rubber-stamped a new multiyear race contract over the strenuous objections of regular park users, without bothering to conduct any environmental impact study of the event’s effect on habitat and park wildlife, including its important status as a key stopover for many migratory birds and waterfowl.

Since you might not be able to come to Detroit to see this appalling transformation, we’re bringing it to you. On our Facebook page, "Belle Isle: Park not Racetrack, Belle Isle Concern—our grassroots group of activists trying to end this perversion of public resources—has documented the day-to-day degradation of the island with video captures. Though corporate boosters and their governmental lapdogs pretend the event brings tourists to Detroit, we believe the images will shock you—and you will wonder, as we do, why any city with such a tremendous and unique park would let it become a racetrack for nearly half of our short warm-weather season.

Belle Isle: Important to Physical & Mental Well-being of Citizens

At the May 16, 2019 Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee (BIPAC) meeting, citizens spoke in opposition to the running of the Grand Prix on Belle Isle Park.

One citizen, Angela DiSante, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, emphasized the importance of Belle Isle to the physical and mental well-being of citizens in her

statement to the BIPAC and new DNR Dan Eichinger present in the audience.

I feel strongly that the Grand Prix needs to stop holding its races on Belle Isle. The disruption to the island is harmful to the wildlife but it’s also harmful to the HUMAN life.

I am a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I treat people suffering from a variety of mental illnesses. For my patients who suffer from anxiety and depression I do prescribe medications - but not always. I almost ALWAYS DO prescribe EXERCISE!

Many of my patients cannot afford a gym membership. Belle Isle is one of the few places in the City of Detroit where one can bicycle, walk, run, hike or swim safely.

However, the Grand Prix race renders the island barely usable for any serious exercise for most of the spring and not at ALL usable for several of those days. The imposition of this noisy, dirty, disruptive event can have a serious impact on mental health.

Another thing I prescribe for my patients is relaxation and meditation. For many people, being able to just sit and quietly watch the water is very healing. Where else in the city can one sit and QUIETLY do this? Or, where can you go to watch a sunrise? Or a sunset?

The foot print of the Grand Prix takes up an extraordinary amount of acreage on the island - and eliminates many, many parking spaces. When these are taken, drivers are barred from entering onto the island.

When friends and families are unable to gather together on hot days because of this intrusion, they get upset and irritated - THAT’s NOT GOOD FOR MENTAL HEALTH.

It infuriated me last Memorial Day weekend when the island was CLOSED off on a beautiful HOT weekend.

Can you name another part in the city that affords river views? Swimming? Wooded hiking trails? Sunsets and sunrises?

This race does not benefit the people of Detroit in any way –





Saturday, May 24, 2020, 12 p.m. - 2 p.m.

Jefferson @ the Bridge to Belle Isle

Join our rally to protest the Grand Prix's occupation of public park space.

Some signs will be provided, but be creative and bring your own sign and friends, too!

We hope to see you at this event rain or shine. Thank you!

Join our Facebook group Belle Isle: Park Not Racetrack

Follow us on Twitter @BIConcern

Email us at belleisleconcern@gmail.com



APRIL 22, 2019

Grand Prix Set-up Begins

Monday, April 22 is the 49th annual Earth Day. More than one billion people in 192 countries will take part in the largest civic-focused day of action in the world. The theme this year is “Protect Our Species.”

On Belle Isle, there will be a “Green Day” of children’s activities at the Nature Center on Saturday, April 20. It’s not clear why the organizers aren’t calling them “Earth Day” activities. Perhaps it’s because what happens on Belle Isle this year on Earth Day isn’t a citizen action to protect our species. Quite the contrary—it’s the day when the annual set-up for the Grand Prix begins. Contractors will start their weeks-long festival of setting up construction barriers, concrete blocks, fencing, corporate advertisements on overpasses, and other impediments that despoil and intrude on the most accessible part of Belle Isle.

Spring on Belle Isle is all about the takeover of one of the most beautiful public spaces in any American city by a billionaire so he can have a weekend of roaring super-fast race cars. The only species being protected on Earth Day on Belle Isle is the species of corporate stakeholders. In the most visited of all Michigan state parks, the interests of Roger Penske will visibly be put ahead of the desires of bicyclists, pedestrians, picnickers, birthday and wedding partiers, and weary Detroiters who just want to relax and look at the river.

Last year, the Michigan DNR refused a request by citizens and environmental organizations to do an environmental impact study of the Belle Isle Grand Prix and granted Penske a new three-year race contract against the wishes of a strong majority of park users. We don’t know what damage the race does to the habitat or the extent of its interference with migratory birds who use Belle Isle as a stopover. But you can see for yourself how it impedes access and mars the landscape.

Now the organizers of the Detroit Auto Show, which moves to June in 2020, are hoping to piggyback on the Grand Prix and add more weeks to the corporate occupation of the island. We can’t continue to allow this perversion of park priorities. It’s time to move the Grand Prix off the island to a more suitable location and reclaim Belle Isle for the people of Detroit.

Celebrate Earth Day by joining our efforts in April and May. Come to the picnic on Belle Isle on May 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Shelter 10 along Central Ave. just past the Giant Slide. Join our protest on Jefferson Ave. at the entrance to the bridge to Belle Isle on May 25 from noon to 2 p.m.


Our citizens group Belle Isle Concern has charged the DNR with possible violations of the public trust because of lack of transparency, environmental irresponsibility, disregard of park users, and use of disputed “economic impact” studies in its approval of new Grand Prix contract in Belle Isle Park.

We oppose the Grand Prix on Belle Isle and sent a request earlier this week to DNR parks chief Ron Olson asking for documents that explain his conclusions that the race has no impact on animals or the park environment, does not violate the park’s strategic management plan, and should be allowed because it purportedly benefits the area economy (as measured only by bogus sports industry studies).

Olson’s assessment of the contract proposal doesn’t pass the smell test. It doesn’t include any assessment of the value of Belle Isle as a park. It reads more like a Roger Penske public relations brochure than a responsible review by a public body.

Other cities have studied the great economic value of urban parks for city dwellers rather than ignoring those values. This clearly contradicts the DNR mission of defending natural resources. The starting assumption should be protecting Belle Isle as a public park, not justifying its misuse as a private racetrack.

We've pointed out that the DNR has hidden results from previous surveys and public listening sessions that have shown a substantial majority of park users oppose the race being held on the island. Olson has also refused requests from environmental and citizens groups to conduct an independent third-party environmental impact study yet has pronounced without any supporting documentation that the event has no impact on animals—while not even considering any other environmental impacts such as storm-water runoff or damage to the island’s historic structure.

In this sham of an approval process the major stakeholders in Belle Isle—the public—have had no seat at the table. Olson and the DNR follow the dictates of Roger Penske and don’t really listen to the public. The voices supporting the Grand Prix have mostly been race volunteers recruited to come to recent meetings and others who have financial or personal stakes in the event.

Belle Isle Concern’s members will continue raising concerns about the gross misuse of Detroit’s most precious public space just for the purpose of a relatively small sporting event conducted by a billionaire.

We are here for the duration.

Every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year we will dedicate ourselves to getting the Grand Prix OFF the Public Park that is Belle Isle.

And we will win.

Belle Isle Concern is also on Facebook

What's Wrong with Holding the Grand Prix on Belle Isle Park?

Belle Isle is a public park and should provide free and unrestricted access to people every day of the year.

The Grand Prix violates the mission and stewardship criteria of the DNR (and Belle Isle Conservancy).

The Grand Prix confiscates the most popular, accessible part of the island for most of the spring. Concrete barriers block the river view, huge corporate ads line the roads, massive party tents block roads.

Belle Isle is a stopover for migratory birds and habitat for lots of flora and fauna, but the DNR has refused to do an environmental impact study of the race.

Access to the Scott Fountain is blocked, picnic areas cordoned off--so weddings and family reunions can't be held. Revenue is lost.

An overwhelming majority of park users have told the DNR in surveys and public meetings that the #1 priority for the island is removing the Grand Prix.

Auto racing is an environmentally insensitive activity which is totally inappropriate for a public park.

Auto racing is inappropriate for a venue so close to densely populated areas because of the disturbance it creates and the disruption it causes to local residents and businesses.

In a world increasingly conscious of the environment, the holding of an auto race in an important public park will be seen internationally not as increasing Detroit's prestige but as an appalling act of destruction.


Hey,Grand Prix!

Quit Disrespecting the People's Park!


Make your very own "No Grand Prix on Belle Isle" badge. Right-click, "Save Image" and download: