Detroit’s in-city Olmstead-designed island, Belle Isle, has long been a place of recreation and escape for residents and suburbanites. Family and church reunions, birthday parties and barbecues descend upon the island in droves in the summer – the beaches, in particular, drawing a kaleidoscope of people, sometimes bridging, sometimes highlighting the city’s stark divides in culture, race and socio-economics.
In 2014, after years of mismanagement, neglect and delayed maintenance, Belle Isle was placed under state control, making it Michigan’s 102nd state park. This, much like the city’s resurgence, was met with mixed sentiment – raising questions from “whose park is it?” to “do I belong?” Nonetheless, Belle Isle persists as one of the few longstanding spaces of “public commons” where the city’s most beloved natural attractions are on full display, connecting people with history and place.
See more of this work on Facing Change: Documenting Detroit.