Belle Isle Advisory Committee appointments announced

Gov. Rick Snyder, in conjunction with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council, have announced appointments to the seven-member Belle Isle Advisory Committee, which will advise the state on implementation of improvements, master planning and public safety for the park.

“I appreciate the willingness of committee members to serve in this important advisory role, and thank them for their time, efforts and contributions to Belle Isle, Detroit and the state,” said Snyder. “As a crown jewel of the state, Belle Isle will be a significant player in the renaissance of Detroit while also providing world-class recreational opportunities to the citizens of Detroit, Michigan and beyond. Today, we take another vital step toward realizing our goals for a renewed Belle Isle.” 

The advisory committee consists of three representatives appointed by the governor; one representative appointed by Detroit City Council; two representatives appointed by the mayor of the city; and one representative to serve as chair jointly appointed by the governor and mayor. As outlined in the lease that provides for state management of the park, at least three members of the advisory committee must be residents of the City of Detroit. The chair of the advisory committee, along with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), will provide an annual report about the park to Detroit’s mayor and City Council.  

“The Belle Isle Advisory Committee will work diligently to assist in returning the island to its original beauty and elegance,” said Bing. “The advisory committee is a compassionate group of individuals who care about Belle Isle and understand the need for its major restoration. I want to thank the committee in advance for its assistance to the state, the city and other vested partners to create a win-win situation for all of our citizens.”  

Michele Hodges of Grosse Pointe Park, president of the Belle Isle Conservancy since Jan. 2013, will serve as committee chair. She is a joint-appointee of the governor and the mayor. Prior to her current position as the conservancy’s first president, Hodges served as president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce for 11 years, held various executive positions within the Detroit Regional Economic Partnership and was executive director of downtown development authority and business development for the City of Southfield.  

“Belle Isle is Pure Michigan magnificence even in the rough,” Hodges said, “In my role as Conservancy president and now as chair of the Belle Isle Advisory Committee, I am committed to continuing the restoration charge and moving Belle Isle forward. It’s the committee’s privilege, honor and responsibility to advise, assist and continue initiating positive change on Belle Isle.” 

Governor-appointed committee members include: 

• Bryan C. Barnhill, II of Detroit is chief talent officer for the City of Detroit Mayor-elect Mike Duggan, and served in a similar role on Duggan’s transition team. He has worked in the capacity of chief of staff and policy director for former Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh. A native Detroiter, Barnhill also worked at Southwest Housing Solutions and as a financial analyst for Kushner Companies in New York City before returning to Detroit.

• Michael Curis of Grosse Pointe Shores is president of Curis Enterprises based in Detroit. He develops grocery-anchored neighborhood shopping centers in and around Detroit. He is also president of Curis Big Boys, Inc., serving in the capacity of owner and operator of Big Boy Restaurants in Metro Detroit. Curis serves or has served on the board of trustees and board of directors of various community organizations including St. John Hospital in Detroit, The Coleman A. Young Foundation and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

• Rev. Lonnie Peek, Jr. of Detroit is the president and CEO of eBusiness Strategies. He is also senior consultant to the chancellor of Wayne County Community College and has served as director of religious studies at the college. He serves on the executive committee of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity and is also the chair of their public relations committee. In addition to serving on the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy board of directors, he also serves on the board of directors of New Detroit, Inc., Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Board of Visitors School of Social Work at Wayne State University. Rev. Peek is an ordained minister and serves as assistant pastor at Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit.  

Mayor-appointed committee members include: 
• Bud Denker of Bloomfield Hills is senior vice president of Penske Corporation and executive vice president of Penske Automotive Group and Penske Performance. Denker joined the Penske enterprise after many years with several Fortune 100 companies including Eastman Kodak Company where he served as vice president of brand and marketing development. Since 2006, he has served as chairman of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and is also active in many Detroit-based organizations including the Downtown Detroit Partnership and The Parade Company.

• Alicia Minter of Detroit is director of the City of Detroit Recreation Department, a position she has held since 2008. Minter, Belle Isle Park manager from 2001-2006, has served the city for 24 years, holding various titles in Recreation as well as in the Department of Public Works and Human Resources. Minter serves as board member on the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Eastern Market Corporation Northwest Community Programs and has served as a committee chair of the Booker T. Washington Business Association.  

• Sommer Woods of Detroit, appointed by the Detroit City Council, is principal consultant at Sommer Solutions and director of external relations for M1-RAIL. Prior to this position, she served as director of film, culture and special events in the City of Detroit Office of Mayor Dave Bing. Woods has worked in the capacity of director of sponsorship services for the Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Committee and tournament services manager of the PGA Tour, Inc.  

“Belle Isle revitalization efforts are a top priority for each Belle Isle Advisory Committee member and the City Council,” said Detroit City Council President Saunteel Jenkins. 

“The Council appreciates working with the state to appoint these advisory committee members and to make certain the people of Detroit are full partners in defining a vision for the historic island park."  

Belle Isle Park is in transition to becoming Michigan’s 102nd state park. At the culmination of the 90-day transition period on Feb. 10, the city will maintain ownership of Belle Isle while the DNR will assume responsibility for managing the park according to the high standards of its award-winning state park system. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will take on responsibility for roads and bridges on Belle Isle. 

The lease provides for an initial 30-year term with two 15-year renewals. In collaboration with the advisory committee, the state will work cooperatively with the Belle Isle Conservancy and other partners to develop and improve the park. State management of the island will save Detroit an estimated $4 million to $6 million a year. The advisory committee will help guide strategic investment on the island. 

“Partnerships are the key to success on Belle Isle,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “Many businesses and nonprofit groups – as well as the local, state and national government — have already stepped up to partner with the state and the City of Detroit to help improve the park. The newly formed committee will be a key advisor as we work together to enhance Belle Isle’s world-class status.” 

The $11 Recreation Passport for Michigan-registered vehicles, which offers access to all Michigan state parks and recreation areas across the state, will be required for entry to Belle Isle beginning Feb. 10. Since the Passport is tied directly to vehicle license plate registrations, and not individuals, the Passport can be purchased at license plate registration renewal with the Secretary of State.  

The Recreation Passport will be introduced gradually. From February 2014 to January 2015, vehicles will not need a Recreation Passport until the date of their vehicle registration renewal. For example, if the vehicle registration is renewed with the Secretary of State in May, then the vehicle will not need a Passport for island access until May 2014. Once purchased, the Passport is good until the next license plate registration renewal date. Visit for additional information, including details for purchasing non-Michigan registered vehicle Recreation Passports. 


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