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Belle Isle notes: Lake Okonoka restoration, new garden planned by famed designer

Courtesy of Michigan DNR

Visitors to Detroit’s island park may notice some construction happening this winter. On the southeast end of the island, Lake Okonoka is currently undergoing a restoration project that will improve waterways to the Detroit River, intended to help both visitors and wildlife.

An existing culvert will be replaced with a 45-foot wide channel, and a new bridge will be built over the channel, connecting paddlers between waterways. According to a release, the new channel will also, “create important Great Lakes fish spawning and nursery habitat, improve water quality and increase oxygen water levels in the lake.”

Work is expected to continue through fall 2018. Visitors should expect these closures:

  • Temporary closure to the Nashua Trail canal crossing near Woodside Drive already underway.
  • Bridge and culvert construction will require traffic to be redirected from The Strand onto Woodside Drive beginning this winter and lasting until spring 2018.
  • Upon completion of construction on The Strand, construction work will begin on Woodside Drive.

Over near the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon, a new garden is in the works by renowned Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. He’s most famously known here for the Lurie Garden in Chicago and the Highline in New York City. After touring Detroit with the Garden Club of Michigan last spring, he decided on Belle Isle for a new garden for Detroit.

The garden is meant to be a connector in “the cultural heart of the park,” between Remick Band Shell and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. Donations and fundraising will cover the design, installation, and maintenance costs of the new garden.

Two open houses are planned this month for the public to learn more about the project and to provide feedback. Oudolf will appear in a video presentation and address a few preliminary questions at the first. At the second open house, he’ll address some questions from the first. The presentation will take place at the Flynn Pavilion on:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 14, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 28, 3 to 5 p.m.

More information can be found here.