It took some convincing of the local leadership to finally purchase Belle Isle as a park for the City of Detroit. Here is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Detroit Free Press on June 29, 1879. It contains a letter to the Editor from Philo Parsons.
FOUND THE TRUTH.
Hon. Philo Parsons Surrenders His Opposition to the Purchase of Belle Isle.
AND WITH CHARACTERISTIC FRANKNESS TELLS THE REASON WHY.
The following interesting letter from Philo Parsons, who was formerly a stout opponent of the purchase of Belle Isle for a park, in which he shows how he was convinced that the purchase is desirable, deserves a thoughtful perusal, especially from those who have opposed the Belle Isle Park merely on general principles, without regard to the merits to the question:
To the Editor of the Detroit Free Press;
I have been strongly pronounced in my opposition to the scheme of purchasing Belle Isle for park purposes. I considered it a fraud upon those who moved earnestly for a railway bridge transit over the Detroit River and were willing to be taxed to be taxed heavily for it. I addressed Mr. Joy, approving his action in leading an opposition, thanking him personally for his vigorous letters, saying that years hence they would be republished approvingly when large expenditures for the improvement of this park would open the eyes of the public to the absurdity of the purchase; but I have, during the past week, been carefully considering the question – have visited and rambled over the island for the first time during my long residence in Detroit and find it eminently suitable and desirable for park purposes, and that with moderate expenditure it can be made one of the most beautiful gems in the boast of any city. I have looked over the suburbs of our city in different directions without being able to place my eyes on a location that will not excite the bitterest hostility of locality, have carefully canvassed among the masses of the people, finding them almost unanimously in favor of Belle Isle for a park. I have also sought to ascertain the sentiment of the younger class of business men, who are rapidly superseding those who have long controlled the business and the political affairs of the city, and am forced to the conclusion that they demand the purchase. Therefore, under these circumstances and in view of the fact that this class of men must at an early date assume the care and meet the responsibility of this additional burden, both as to interest and principal, I have reached the conviction that it is not wise for me to interpose an objection, and I shall willingly pay my share of the tax resulting, if the purchase is deemed best by the Board of Estimates, as I think it will be. I have ever been a warm advocate of parks for the people. If I remember rightly it was largely through my personal efforts, while in the Council, that the Hamtramck bill was carried over the veto of the Mayor.
The main objection urged against this scheme is that is accessible only by water. The strong argument in favor of the Jefferson Avenue Park was that it was approachable by steamers that would carry crowds of people at a very slight cost.
It is absurd to say that it will cost a million of money to make Belle Isle beautiful and attractive. The forest is not over-dense. It can be under-brushed, unnecessary trees removed, a varied and most fascinating drive, at a moderate cost, constructed around the island, making it an attractive place of resort, leaving further improvements for the future of our city to develop. The only wonder ten years hence will be that there was any opposition to a scheme so promotive of pleasure, reflecting so much credit upon the wisdom and liberality of our people. Excuse my trespassing upon your columns. I wish to place myself right on this most important question.
Detroit, June 28, 1879.
“The only wonder ten years hence will be that there was any opposition to a scheme so promotive of pleasure, reflecting so much credit upon the wisdom and liberality of our people.” – Philo Parsons