In Chapter 8 of John M. Levy’s Contemporary Urban Planning, the goals of comprehensive planning is laid out: Health, Public Safety, Circulation, Provision of services and facilities, fiscal health, economic goals, environmental protection, and redistributive goals. These goals seem simple enough, and would certainly play a major role in a municipality’s quality of life and having a balanced society. However, what happens when these goals are not adequately paid attention to?
In an article by the Detroit Free Press, I couldn’t help but think about how important each of these goals are in the role of a successful community. In Detroit however, an issue related to the long term funding of a local park and regional attraction, Belle Island, is currently experiencing negative fiscal impacts and a high risk of being taken over by the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. Belle Island is a 985-acre park located in the Detroit River, however belongs to the City of Detroit. For years Belle Island has been underfunded and it’s full potential therefore not realized. Now, the State of Michigan is readying a rescue plan for the beleaguered park, by signing a 30-year lease of the property and charging a small fee for annual membership for the public. The plan has the approval of Detroit Mayor Bing, but not the Detroit City Council as of yet.
How can a city get so fiscally out of order that the state government has to come in and take over a large natural asset, such as a nearly 1,000-acre island? Upon further thought, I realized that the City has failed in the comprehensive planning goals. They failed in the arena of environmental protection with failing to preserve Belle Island, failed fiscally for decades that lead to other goal failures, failed in provisions of proper recreational facilities and public health for having the park system in a bad, “barely making it” shape.
To me, Levy makes good points in highlighting the importance of a comprehensive plan, or master plan. Levy takes into account that it is a long-term plan that should aim to make these goals a reality. With the current state of Belle Island, and in lieu of Detroit keeping the park, the State of Michigan preparing a $20 million bond issuance is huge. This has the potential to strongly alter the City’s budget, as to send maintenance funding and other park maintenance to other parks or areas of the city’s budget. Because of that, the State of Michigan is indirectly and actively aiding the recovery of not just Belle Island, but also the City of Detroit’s other open space properties and recreational facilities. Sure, this happens often enough all across America in many different ways, but perhaps this is an example of a puzzle piece to a bigger strategy; and what Michiganders are witnessing is the rise of comprehensive Regional Planning taking over in the place of failed local policies and practices. If so, perhaps Detroit is on the right track after all.