NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

A Better Belle Isle


By: Sarah Lowe (Opfer)

A portion of shoreline on Belle Isle, Michigan is now free of marine debris!  In 2012, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provided funding to the Alliance for the Great Lakes to tackle the problem of marine debris on this historic island.

Throughout the past two years, the project team has been busy on four different project components.  The removal project helped clean up 200 metric tons of debris, which included concrete slabs, rebar, and other metal debris.

The project enlisted the help of 514 volunteers representing 13 different groups to participate in the Alliance’s Adopt-a-Beach™ program to remove and record litter from the Belle Isle shoreline. Volunteers spent 2,170 hours of service and removed 4,563.5 pounds of debris.

Belle Isle is a popular recreational area for Detroit, Michigan.  It is the largest city-owned island park in the United States, and is currently leased to the state of Michigan.  This allowed for some unique education and outreach opportunities in partnership with the Belle Isle Nature Zoo and other groups on the island.  The Boat US Foundation donated five monofilament fishing line recycling bins. The bins were installed at various fishing piers and other popular fishing spots around the island.  Volunteers from Go Lightly Career and Tech Center visited the bins monthly to record the amount of fishing line collected in the bins for a total of 55 entries to the BoatUS Foundation database.

Beyond the bins, the Alliance worked with the Belle Isle Nature Zoo to also develop an educational mobile display to educate zoo-goers about the recycling project on the island and to stress the problem with fishing line and trash left in the Great Lakes environment. Recently the Nature Zoo used it at a special youth day in Detroit on July 11 reaching an estimated that 1,500 students.  The Nature Zoo itself hosts more than 60,000 visitors a year.

Belle Isle mobile education display

Belle Isle mobile education display

While marine debris removal projects have obvious benefits to habitat, many of our funded projects like Belle Isle, reach beyond their footprint to make a difference in the community and to educate others on the impacts of marine debris.

“It’s one of the most productive partnerships that I can think of. Working together, the impact we have made on teachers, students and the community really is priceless. It’s immeasurable,” said Belle Isle Nature Zoo’s Mike Reed.

The project team successfully secured funds to continue the work to make a “Better Belle Isle.” Learn more about NOAA Marine Debris Program’s removal funding opportunity here.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

2 thoughts on “A Better Belle Isle

  1. These clean ups are so important not only for the health of our wildlife but also ours. The other important part is keeping it clean, at creeklife we help local communities fundraise for maintain and sweeps to keep the litter under control.

  2. Pingback: A Better Belle Isle, Michigan | OEOO Knowledgebase

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