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Belle Isle Conservancy

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Community & Neighborhood Development, Economic Development

Mission: The mission of belle isle conservancy is to protect, preserve, restore and enhance the natural environment, historic structures and unique character of belle isle as a public park for the enjoyment of all - now and forever.

Programs: Historic preservation:preserving the buildings, fountains,statues. Historic landscape and other historic amenities of belle isle park; includes planning,research and implementing capital improvements. The belle isle conservancy raises private support for historic preservation activities, working in conjunction with the city of detroit and the michigan department of natural resources. In 2012, the belle isle conservancy raised funds for a complete restoration of the roof of the horse stables, a large complex designed by architect george mason in the 1920's. The clay tile roof was completely repaired and where necessary, rebuilt, ensuring the preservation of the building, which is located in a prominent area of the park. Another major project has been raising funds to replace the pewabic tiles in the james scott memorial fountain. The tiles were ripped out of the fountain by an erroneous contractor; and the conservancy holds an annual fundraiser party to generate dollars to replace the historic tiles and beautify the historic fountain. The conservancy has also supported the city's effort to renew the national register for historic places designation for belle isle, through documentation, research and public meetings. The belle isle conservancy has acted as a fiduciary for the city of detroit for state historic preservation office grants to restore the nancy brown peace carillon tower which is in disrepair, and to assess the feasibility of reconnecting the belle isle aquarium and anna scripps whitcomb conservatory, as it was originally designed by albert kahn in the early 1900s. Conservancy volunteers constantly monitor the condition of belle isle structures, streetlights, footpath bridges over the canals and other structures and report problems to belle isle conservancy, the city of detroit and the state of michigan department of natural resources.

belle isle aquarium and anna scripps whitcomb conservatory: the belle isle aquarium and anna whitcomb conservatory opened in 1904 and remains one of detroit's cultural jewels. The belle isle aquarium delighted visitors for over a century before the city closed it in 2005 due to budget reductions. In 2012, the belle isle conservancy negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the city of detroit to assume responsibility for opening the aquarium. The conservancy continues to operate under that agreement with the state of michigan now managing the park instead of the city. In 2012 the aquarium opened with about a dozen tank exhibits and was open from 11 to 3 pm on saturday and sunday. The aquarium is now open to visitors every friday to sunday. The conservancy also supported a state historic preservation grant to repair the aquarium roof by providing match funding and by paying for the required flood insurance to secure the grant. The belle isle aquarium is run mostly by volunteer effort - a leadership team of 10 core volunteers regularly contribute about 20 hours of volunteer time per week throughout the year. Another 20 volunteers contribute time on a less regular basis and support tours, events, and general aquarium operations. The conservatory also has a crew of dedicated volunteers that docent tours, help maintain the plant collections, and organize event fundraisers for the conservatory. The state of michigan manages the conservatory, but leans on the conservancy volunteers to run the field trip program, lead tours, support scheduling, and supplement the plant collections with additional flowers and plants.

environmental stewardship: belle isle's 982 acres include a large wetland forest, a system of canals and interior lakes in this park that is itself an island, and trees and other plantings throughout the heavily used picnic and playground areas. Invasive species threaten the more fragile native plants and are held in check through a combination of volunteer labor and chemical treatments that are a joint project of the conservancy and the michigan departmental of natural resources. More than 2,500 volunteers spend well over 10,000 hours each year through monthly stewardship saturdays, research projects and specific projects to maintain the forest trains and footbridges over the canals. A lot of these volunteers come to the island via corporate volunteer days where the island gets a group of 50+ oeople to dedicate a full day of manual labor to improve the island's aesthetics and natural environment. Over 40,000 daffodils have been planted throughout the park through a volunteer effort and with support from the michigan department of natural resources. Volunteers conduct a frog and toad survey as a way of monitoring the environmental health of the park's ecosystema nd support national efforts to survey and monitor migratory birds. Lastly, the belle isle conservancy's field trip program for fourth graders to visit the aquarium and conservatory educates students about the environment and ecosystems, plant and fish adaptations, and invasive species with the intent of exposing and exciting kids about environmental science and the environmental science and the environmental issues affecting belle isle, the detroit river, and the detroit region.

other program services: are those services that improve belle isle park for the enjoyment of all, but are not specifically covered under historic preservation, aquarium and conservatory, or environmental stewardship( i. E. Regular repairs and maintenance, consulting services, etc. )

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