March 11, 2011 by Amy Elliott Bragg
Belle Isle Winery Y/N?!
We were doing research late on Tuesday night when we came across a modest little news piece about an idea to put a winery on Belle Isle. Despite my love for both Belle Isle and drinking wine, I felt skeptical, but I couldn’t pinpoint why, so I dashed it off on Facebook and cc’d my trusted source on all things Belle Isle: the blogger Belle Isle Home.
It seems she was up late, too. Even before coffee was ready the next morning, she’d shared her thoughts on the matter:
Before we dive in head-first on this vineyard thing on Belle Isle, I’d like to see a conservancy established to run the island, like the conservancies that successfully run Central Park in New York, and Campus Martius and the RiverWalk here. With a conservancy in place, I would feel more confident that a vineyard plan or any other plans for the island would have safeguards in them to make sure that Detroit’s public playground and park doesn’t get chopped up into a bunch of private parks that benefit their private owners, while making it harder for us regular folks to enjoy the river.
I think she nailed it: this isn’t really about whether or not a winery on Belle Isle is a good idea. It kind of is! And in some way, I think it rings a nice note of salud to the pastoral orchards of Detroit’s early past. (See also: Solomon Sibley’s pear.)
Compared to some of Belle Isle’s eyesores — the mess left over from the Grand Prix, and the abandoned slips of the Boat Club, and the miserable old zoo come to mind — a Belle Isle winery seems like an idyll and a non-issue. What’s the big deal, right? But it’s the same damn story as always: we should probably undertake problems (and solutions) like this one in an organized, strategic way, and according to some kind of understood process and plan.
Unfortunately, the answer seems to have been an offended and resounding “NO!” from the Friends of Belle Isle and the city. (To be fair, isn’t this idea just a little presumptuous? Like, did anyone bother to ask if it would be cool to put a vineyard on Belle Isle? Or was this guy just like, “Oh, hey, you’re not using that beautiful old Casino for anything else, are you? Because I need it. For my vineyard.”)
But there’s really no need to be hasty, right? This could be a great opportunity to go through a productive and open process as a community that puts some standards in place. Even if we don’t get a winery out of it, it would be nice to get some standards for how to approach these proposals in the future.
And the good news for this dude is that even if Belle Isle is a nonstarter, there is so much vacant land on the riverfront it’s obscene. Vineyards for everyone! It’s your new potato patch plan.
THE NIGHT TRAIN