Friends of the Detroit River Grow Small Grants to Big Impacts: Improving Belle Isle

Friends of the Detroit River Grow Small Grants to Big Impacts: Improving Belle Isle

What happens when you give two passionate, dedicated water enthusiasts almost a half million dollars? In the case of Friends of the Detroit River (FDR)—they used it to knock out acres of invasive species and educate millions of people, all while creating green jobs for local youth on Belle Isle in the Detroit River.

Belle Isle is Detroit’s most popular open space for recreation, but it’s rich diversity of plants and wildlife is being threatened by aquatic invasivespecies like Phragmites and purple loosestrife.

In 2013, Freshwater Future helped FDR with a small grant from the Healing Our Waters grantmaking program to help them gain the capacity to submit applications for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding.

FDR succeeded in securing a large grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, aimed at completing a comprehensive aquatic invasive
species control and outreach program on Belle Island that hosts over 10 million visitors every year.

Knowing that many hands make light work, FDR reached out to a broad range of partners. From local community groups and tourism providers, to government and academic partners, over a dozen groups worked together to treat over 50 acres of invasive species, to design and implement a sophisticated, wide-reaching education and engagement program, and to create “green” summer employment opportunities for local youth.

Freshwater Future was thrilled to help such a passionate and dedicated group; we value our role in supporting and building the capacity of
grassroots groups like FDR. In the words of Tricia Blicharski, “Without the support of Freshwater Future in thinking through the project and the application, this work never would have happened.”

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.