DETROIT -

It may be an uncomfortable day to take a walk on Belle Isle, but the weather isn’t keeping the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from cutting down trees and removing brush.

Improvements already have started, though the state won’t formally begin operating the park until next February.

DNR officials, Mayor Dave Bing and volunteers gathered at the island’s historic casino building, wearing T-shirts with the slogan “I’m all in for Belle Isle.”

“I will look back with pride for supporting this from day one,” said Bing. “I had a lot of pushback, people saying, ‘You’re giving it away.’ We’re not giving anything away. We need the help."

The state will lease Belle Isle for 30 years, investing $10-$20 million in the island park. People driving to the island will need an $11 annual permit, which also is charged at other state-run parks.

Bing and the DNR thanked more than 40 volunteer organizations, whose members are committed to restoring Belle Isle.

They include a wide range of groups including the Belle Isle Conservancy, The Garden Club of Michigan, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Ducks Unlimited, the Youth Connection, and Greening of Detroit.