Alpaca Ranch Could Come To Belle Isle, Put Abandoned Golf Course Back To Use

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At first, it’s easy to brush the idea of an Alpaca Ranch on Belle Isle off as completely absurd. While the thought of such a move may seem strange, a Detroit couple believes that this is one new idea that deserves a chance.

Detroiter David Shock, the creator of the idea of “Alpaca Land Detroit,” thinks Detroit needs more cute. The concept was a response to the family’s personal love of Detroit and alpacas.

Shock is no stranger to rehab projects. He and his wife recently purchased an old factory on Gratiot by Heidelberg and converted the second floor into a loft, and left the first floor for retail space pertaining to the couple’s other passions motorcycles, denim, coffee, travel and art.

The old Belle Isle Golf Course clubhouse, sitting in disrepair. Daily Detroit photo.
The old Belle Isle Golf Course clubhouse, sitting in disrepair. Daily Detroit photo.

After the visiting the proposed site, it’s clear to see that it has seen much better days.

They hope to contribute to the revitalization of Belle Isle and feel that animals as gentle as alpacas would be a great way for children and adults to be introduced to livestock and people’s relationship to animals.

According to Shock, the animals are incredibly gentle, they only have bottom teeth and a hard palate on the top of their mouth to crush food, so they don’t bite, nor do they spit like llamas and camels.

Their hypoallergenic fiber is as soft as cashmere and warmer than sheep’s wool and seven times stronger. Alpacas prefer a cooler climate in the summer and cold winters in order to optimize fleece production, making Belle Isle a great option, says Shock.

But it’s not just about fiber production. Alpacas are also used as therapy for kids and the elderly, and under the plan, they say that the island’s proximity to senior homes and schools would make a it a great destination to help these folks.

The Detroit concept was a response to the family’s personal love of Detroit and alpacas. They hope to contribute to the revitalization of Belle Isle and feel that animals as gentle as alpacas would be a great way for children and adults to be introduced to livestock and human’s relationship to animals.

The golf course on Belle Isle sits unused and unkempt. Daily Detroit Photo.
The golf course on Belle Isle sits unused and unkempt. Daily Detroit Photo.

The proposed farm location is on the old golf course, which is already fenced off and has a few structures in place to help run a pilot program requiring relatively low initial investment.

“Profits earned would help support further improvements to the island, as well as employ individuals to care for the animals,” said Shock.

Alpaca Facts:

  • Alpacas are part of the camel family and originated in South America
  • They are significantly smaller (150 lbs max) than llamas and are raised solely for their fiber
  • They are incredibly gentle, they only have bottom teeth and a hard palate on the top of their mouth to crush food, so they don’t bite, nor do they spit like llamas and camels
  • Their hypoallergenic fiber is as soft as cashmere and warmer than sheep’s wool

What’s the Belle Isle Conservancy saying?

According to Shock, the couple have received initial interest matched by a few concerns which we they are working to iron out.

Where can folks learn more about the project?

Facebook Page: Alpaca Land Detroit

Twitter: AlpacaLandDet and use the hashtag #detroitneedsmorecute to spread the word.

People are also welcome to email him at alpacalanddetroit@gmail.com.

3 comments
  • Such a cool idea! I think that this could be a very interesting contribution to the city, provided it financially benefits Belle Isle and its revitalization efforts. I’d also suggest it maintains an active relationship with the community through programs that invite guests to visit, such as tours or opportunities to interact with the animals (if that’s not stressful for alpacas).

  • This sounds wonderful, although you need to do some fact checking. They DO spit! But, not generally at people. They spit at each other, and not that much. It’s definitely possible to get caught in the crossfire, though.

  • I’m hoping if this finds support that the goat farm that was raided taking baby goats away will be restored. I hope the livestock laws of Detroit do go through radical change and I believe that many “don’t want” areas of the city where people continue to live have the ability to grow. Policies are barriers that carry the pinchers of law enforcement. Of course Belle Isle can be seen as State controlled since it is on lease from the City of Detroit. Will the lessee abide by city law?

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