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Michigan DNR working to relieve Belle Isle traffic this summer

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Posted at 5:26 AM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 05:26:30-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Last summer, people flocked to state parks across Michigan as a safe place to be outside amid the pandemic. The increase was clear at Belle Isle, creating a traffic headache along the MacArthur Bridge.

“As I’m crossing the bridge, I feel like I am in another place, like a vacation spot,” said Kim Meerhaeghe.

Meerhaeghe volunteers at the Belle Isle Conservancy. Last summer, she saw firsthand the increase in the amount of people trying to get onto Belle Isle.

“I try to get there early; a lot of people will get there later in the afternoon and that’s when I notice that the park is congested,” said Meerhaeghe.

According to Ron Olson, Chief of Parks and Recreation for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, parks in Michigan saw a 25 percent increase on average across the state.

“This past year, we experienced an accelerated amount of people desiring to go to Belle Isle,” said Olson.

He says part of the traffic backup on the MacArthur Bridge is people not having their recreation passport.

Now they are looking to staff more people to processes those passports. They’ve also hoping moving the stations to buy the passes will alleviate congestion.

“We did move them further into the park and created two locations one as you went on towards the central avenue and then one on the main road,” said Olson.

The Michigan DNR is looking into new technology to help as well, including a phone app to buy the passports, and the option of buying the passports at parking spots.

“They’re machines, like parking meter stations where you can do to the machine and enter your license plate or some identified or the parking spot that you are in and transact that right then and there and then you get a receipt that comes out,” said Olson.

Olson says this is something that could be implemented this summer, although no date has been set. The technology has been piloted in other parks.

A good option for you to not get stuck in line? Buy a recreation passport while renewing your tabs on your vehicle.

Another issue is the park getting full and having to turn away new visitors. Olson says keep on eye out on their social media pages for updates before you head out the door.