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Detroit News - Friday, February 11, 2005

You can help keep Belle Isle Aquarium from going under

 Betty DeRamus


You wouldn't expect a man who was born in England and has lived in Nigeria, Mexico and Denmark to pour so much passion into trying to save a piece of Detroit.

But Stephen Goodfellow, who teaches Web design and digital illustration at the College of Creative Studies, has been in the Detroit area for 30 years now. That's long enough to watch the Renaissance Center sprout silver towers; long enough to watch the downtown Hudson's store implode into piles of rubble and dust and long enough to fall in love with a 101-year-old home for creatures of the sea.

Fish? He doesn't know that much about them, other than that the Belle Isle Aquarium has kept several fish, including the golden skiffia or golden sawfin, from disappearing from the planet.

Goodfellow does know that he loves the peace that comes from wandering past goggle-eyed fish gliding and swimming or simply floating in one still spot. So, a year ago, he put up a Web site celebrating the joys of the aquarium.

However, when he heard that the city planned to shut it down to help balance its budget, his Web site changed.

It became a forum for people who wanted to protest the closing of an institution that is so much a part of what gives Detroit its special flavor. Goodfellow is now Web administrator for the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium.

The group's Web site ( allows people to e-mail their thoughts about the aquarium's closing straight to the mayor, the governor and members of the Detroit City Council.

It also lists the times and places of real-life meetings where people can share ideas for saving the oldest continuously operating public aquarium in North America.

"When I heard it was closing," says Goodfellow, "I was in total disbelief. I couldn't believe anybody would do something like that. It's such an historic institute worldwide ... (The city hasn't) put any advertising in there, and it's run on a total shoestring. The mayor has been given bad advice by a zoo director out of touch with the people of Detroit."

Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium will meet from 7-8:30 p.m. today at the University of Detroit, 4001 W. McNichols, in Room 210 of the Briggs Building.

The group also will meet from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Coffee Beanery, 22871 Woodward, in Ferndale.

Go if you need some place to dump your outrage.

Go if you think an aquarium that has received several honors from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association for saving nearly extinct fish deserves to live itself.

Go if you want to help preserve the home of desert pupfish, freshwater stingrays, sunfish, pike, sturgeon, the Colorado squawfish, razorback suckers, angelfish, snapping turtles, mudpuppies, red tailed catfish, an electric eel and piranhas with jaws that South American Indians use as scissors.

Go if you want to fight for an institution before it shuts down.

Or go if you don't want to see one more irreplaceable piece of Detroit history become a mound of rubble and rusted dreams.

Betty DeRamus' column runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Metro. Reach her at (313) 222-2296 or