Back in March of 2005, the Spinal Column did a story that was one of my most memorable assignments. I went with a reporter to photograph the Belle Isle Aquarium as it was about to be closed down. At the time it was the oldest aquarium in the country. We were given a tour of the aquarium by a docent and even got a special look behind the tanks to where the caretakers kept the waters flowing for the fishes. It had probably been close to 20 years since I had been to the aquarium. As I stepped in to the building, the greenish tint from the Pewabic tiles transported back in my memory to a trip with my brownie troop to the same building that had not changed nearly a bit in all that time. I immediately got nostalgic, that happy and at the same time sad, feeling when you are part way in the past, and part way in an uncertain future.
At that time the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium was desperately trying to raise money to keep the doors of the aquarium open, and people were responding in droves. I returned over the weekend on my own time to visit once more, and there was a line out the door to get in! Sadly, it wasn’t any match for a city that was not interested in supporting an old building during a time when cash was being thrown around preparing for the Super Bowl XL in Detroit, and the aquarium shut its doors shortly after.
The Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium never gave up it seems, and now are in the midst of a push to win an award of $50,000 for the Pepsi Refresh Project, and they need our help to do it. In order to win the cash, which they plan to use to restore the tanks in the aquarium in order to “bring home” many of the fish who were displaced when the aquarium closed, you need to go to the Pepsi Refresh Project Page website, register your email, and vote for them.
I believe there is also a way that you can text in your vote. There are further details and photos on the Face book page for the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium.
Please help these folks! They need to be in the top ten in order to win the grant. Last I heard they were hovering somewhere around 13th place. So they aren’t that far away. The deadline to vote is the end of the year, but as I understand you can vote once each day, so please do. One, thing you must note, if you do choose to vote, only do so for the Belle Isle Aquarium in the $50,000 category, and not other organization in that category, as sadly, that would essentially be a vote against the aquarium.
Please vote, and pass on the word. It could me the re-opening of this treasure in Detroit!