Belle Isle committee says yes to Grand Prix for 3 to 5 years

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Thursday night the Belle Isle Advisory Committee made a decision to keep the Grand Prix there for the next three to five years - but that's only a recommendation. That recommendation will now be passed on to the DNR, who will have the final say.

Crowds packed the Nature Center on the Island for the meeting and the talk of the fate of the races got heated. 

"Whoever is in charge of this should be ashamed of themselves," said one protester. The Belle Isle Grand Prix is called a major boost for the Motor City. Others, though, call it a major headache. 

Lance Smith, a Detroiter, relies on the Grand Prix for work. He sets up the track each spring, when the west side of the island is taken over for about 60 days of setup and then three days of racing.

"We take care of our end of the island. We cut the grass; we keep it looking good because we know we will be seen all over the world," he added. "There are a lot more things to protest, more things that need protesting than this."

A presentation by Belle Isle representatives revealed that the race generates about 30 percent of the money to keep Belle Isle conversancy up and running. The economic value is a key point for those who want the race to stay.

"If the race were to go away I do wonder how all the financial resources, jobs and free advertising, will be replaced," said one person in favor. Race opposers, though, don't think the money is worth it.

"There is not enough time to categorically refute all the garbage the DNR has spewed in support of its plan in support of the devastation of our island," said one protester.

Carol Rhodes says she's worried about the environmental impact. Belle Isle is ranked by Bird Watcher Daily as one of the top places in the country to watch for birds.

"How much damage is done in three days of racing?" An independent environmental study was never done," she argued.

Out of the 500 plus phone calls and emails and even the public comment Thursday night, the majority seemed to be in favor of keeping the race for years to come.

"Let's take a little bit of inconvenience and be thankful for the money that it brings," said one person.

Leaders here on Belle Isle say whether the race stays or goes - the focus has to be on park goers moving forward.