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Belle Isle park redevelopment plan revealed

City and state officials announced a plan this week to transfer management and fiscal responsibility for Detroit's Belle Isle park to the state government. The lease will run for 30 years and is a part of a larger plan to upgrade and beautiful the deteriorating island.

The park is one of the nation's largest urban parks, surpassing Central Park in New York City by about 100 acres.

The plan is designed to save the city money, about $275 million over the next 30 years, and to make improvements for the park possible through state funding. The initial plans include millions of dollars in improvements to landscaping, athletic fields, and general park infrastructure. City officials say that they are looking forward to using the money they will save on other important local improvement projects.

Only visitors who drive into the park will be charged the entry fee starting next year. Detroit residents who walk, bike, or take public transportation to the island will be able to enter for free.

Redeveloping the park is a big opportunity for Detroit to add some greenery and natural beauty to a city known for its factories and other industrial areas. The park's revitalization will also offer some exciting opportunities for other development nearby, as it becomes more of a destination for tourists and possibly higher-end housing.

City and state officials have been quick to compare the park to Millennium Park in Chicago and Central Park in New York City, where the green space has been associated with higher property values and a better standard of living.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Belle Isle plan unveiled: State spends millions for upgrades; $10 annual pass required," Matt Helms, Sept. 12, 2012.

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