Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Grand Prix left Belle Isle's grass a torn up mess, again

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 8:20 AM

click to enlarge Large swaths of Belle Isle's grass - like this one between the Scott Fountain and Casino - were torn up by the Grand Prix. - PHOTO BY TOM PERKINS
  • Photo by Tom Perkins
  • Large swaths of Belle Isle's grass - like this one between the Scott Fountain and Casino - were torn up by the Grand Prix.

Belle Isle’s Grand Prix deconstruction has reached its final phases. The west side of the island reopened last week, which alleviated traffic complaints, and the majority of grandstands, fencing, and blockades are gone.

All in all, that's eleven weeks of construction.

However, a quick drive around the island on Monday reveals large patches of dead grass throughout its west side, including near the casino, fountain, and music shell — areas where the race’s VIP, vendor, and media tents took up space. Patches of grass that sat underneath the race’s grandstands for months are also dead.

click to enlarge Grass torn up or killed by the Grand Prix. - PHOTO BY TOM PERKINS
  • Photo by Tom Perkins
  • Grass torn up or killed by the Grand Prix.

Though crews were reseeding some of the areas on Monday, they’re still noticeable — a repeat of the situation after the 2015 race in which organizer Roger Penske’s crews were left reseeding large swaths of the island following a rainy race weekend. Only they didn’t reseed all of the dead patches, but instead converted some into permanent gravel and concrete lots.

Though a relatively small problem, the grass could be a symptom of something more, says Carol Rhoades, a park user working to get the race off the island.

When the city signed the current contract with Penske in 2007, no one conducted an environmental report to assess the potential damage a major race could have on the island’s ecosystem.

click to enlarge Grass torn up or killed by the Grand Prix. - PHOTO BY TOM PERKINS
  • Photo by Tom Perkins
  • Grass torn up or killed by the Grand Prix.

Rhoades explains Belle Isle is a major flyway for migrating birds and home to several bald eagles, coyotes, snapping turtles, and foxes that are harmed by the noise pollution.

Penske has promised to cut the 11-week construction project down to just nine weeks next year, but Rhoades says that’s still too long. The Grand Prix’s contract expires next year and Penske is re-negotiating with the DNR.

“There were a lot of promises made that weren’t kept,” Rhoades says.

click to enlarge Grass that sat below one of the grandstands. - PHOTO BY TOM PERKINS
  • Photo by Tom Perkins
  • Grass that sat below one of the grandstands.


As part of her efforts, she has regularly attended the DNR’s Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee monthly public meeting.

However, the Committee failed to reach a quorum at its June meeting, as it did in May. 


click to enlarge Swaths of grass torn up by the Grand Prix. - PHOTO BY TOM PEKRINS
  • Photo by Tom Pekrins
  • Swaths of grass torn up by the Grand Prix.

Still, it went through the agenda at its June meeting, Rhoades says, and five people showed up to voice their concerns about the traffic and safety issues resulting from the Grand Prix's infrastructure. Only one comment was in favor of the race.

She plans on sharing her concerns at public forums in September and October at which park officials will seek input on the new Grand Prix contract.



click to enlarge In previous years, Grand Prix organizer Roger Penske's team laid concrete in spots that its vehicles tore up, thus turning parts of the park into parking lots. - PHOTO BY TOM PERKINS
  • Photo by Tom Perkins
  • In previous years, Grand Prix organizer Roger Penske's team laid concrete in spots that its vehicles tore up, thus turning parts of the park into parking lots.

click to enlarge Race organizer Roger Penske's team previously threw down gravel in spots that its vehicles tore up, thus turning parts of the park into permanent parking lots. - PHOTO BY TOM PERKINS
  • Photo by Tom Perkins
  • Race organizer Roger Penske's team previously threw down gravel in spots that its vehicles tore up, thus turning parts of the park into permanent parking lots.

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