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Letter: Grand Prix damages Belle Isle

The Detroit News

We’re proud Detroiters. We want the best for our city.

We would be happy about the “high-octane fun, food, music, and more” that race fans can find at the Grand Prix.

An auto race that draws people into the city is a good thing. But one that interferes for months with the everyday “fun” of citizens who use Belle Isle Park for refuge and regeneration is a gross misappropriation.

Grand Prix fans will get a chance to stand on the podium at the Autotrader Winner’s Circle for a fun photo opportunity.

We strongly object to the idea that for much of the spring the people’s precious public island park becomes a billionaire’s commercialized private racetrack.

There is absolutely no solid evidence that the Belle Isle Grand Prix brings some $50 million in economic benefits to the Detroit area.

As for its value in bringing tourists to town, Bud Denker, Grand Prix Chairman himself has stated that 75 percent of the 100,000 race fans who come to Belle Isle for the weekend are from the tri-county area. Most of the rest aren’t from much farther away.

Most of the $13.5 million the Penske claims to have bestowed on Belle Isle itself went for the casino, the fountain, replacing a grove of trees with a ten-acre concrete paddock, and paving his racetrack.

And while the DNR itself says the $450,000 annual permit fee is counterbalanced by $100,000 in lost revenue from weddings and other rentals not possible all spring, a real cost-benefit analysis would include the loss in mental health and physical health benefits to park users who can’t afford gym memberships and have no other comparable place to run, bike, walk, fish, picnic, or just sit by the river.

The set-up and tear-down of 60 days is longer than any comparable race in the world. Is the real loss to our community even measurable in dollars? When something priceless is held as part of the public trust by a community, a responsible government and a caring business community protect it from commercialization.

Our civic and business leaders can work with community advocates and find a more suitable place for the race so that our citizens can find peace and tranquility on our beautiful island park.

Sandra A. Novacek, Detroit

Belle Isle Concern

Belle Isle Concern is a grassroots group of citizens who oppose the running of the Grand Prix on Belle Isle Park.