Belle Isle park goers will soon be able to travel the island by trolley.
Starting this summer, several trolleys will operate Thursday to Sunday to manage traffic congestion on the 982-acre island park. The cost is still being negotiated, but the state Department of Natural Resources plans to foot the bill unless another sponsor emerges.
The trolleys will operate from noon to 8 p.m. and the tentative route will run from the island’s concrete paddock to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and Belle Isle Aquarium, the kids row playground and to the beach.
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“We’re looking at having probably two (trolleys) in the routes so we’re not having people wait that long at certain locations throughout the island,” Scott Pratt, chief of southern field operations for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources told BridgeDetroit. “This is a work in progress because we’re not sure where people will want to attend on the island itself,” he said.
The trolley system, combined with reduced construction and improved traffic management, will allow for more visitors on the island, Pratt told BridgeDetroit. Last year, due to flooding and construction, only 70% of the park was accessible, and there were around 2,100 parking spots.
Some Detroiters expressed dismay over several closures of the island last summer, often on the hottest and nicest days, due to heavy vehicle traffic.
This year, 95% of the park will be accessible and more than a total of 3,500 parking spots will be available, creating less bottlenecks in different areas of the island, Pratt said.
”Hopefully with more of the park being accessible this year, we’re gonna see less and less of those closures and more and more people enjoying the park,” he said.
The DNR is considering three companies to provide the trolley service and is waiting for bids to come in to decide which company they’ll go with. The company they go with will determine what the trolley looks like, but Pratt said it will be “in between a school bus and a trolley,” similar to a small charter bus.
With the trolley system comes parking attendants to manage the parking lots. It’s a package deal, Pratt told BridgeDetroit, which will free up park rangers to focus more on bathroom and garbage pickup, and enforcement.
Michele Hodges, president and CEO of the Belle Isle Conservancy, called the trolley system plan an important step for the island.
“Ensuring access to Belle Isle at all times and ease of traversing the island oce on it are two of our most important priorities,” she said. “We are grateful to the MDNR for bringing resources to the table.”
In other Belle Isle news, the casino is getting a new roof, several new trails are open, and kayaks are back.