DETROIT -- Hundreds of guests packed
the Belle Isle Aquarium on Sunday to get a last
glimpse of the 101-year-old attraction before it
closed its doors for the final time.
Sisters Claudia Sherwood and Marion Morris,
both of Ypsilanti, believe the closing will
discourage people from coming to the city.
"This is sickening," Morris said. "They
should preserve this. This is awesome."
Detroit is closing the aquarium to help cut a
$200 million deficit. The city expects to save
more than $500,000 annually from its closing.
The aquarium, the oldest continuously
operating public aquarium in North America, is
in a building designed by famed architect Albert
Kahn. It was open all year and housed freshwater
stingrays, coral reef fish, electric eels and
other aquatic animals.
Aretha Turner was hoping that the city would
have a change of heart. Turner came to the
aquarium Sunday to say goodbye, but she and
others were hoping it would get a last-minute
"Hopefully, somebody will walk through today
with some power," Turner said. "We don't have
many cultural things in Detroit."
Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium still are
working to save it and are pushing the city to
let them lease the building as a nonprofit
They have landed several big donations,
including $10,000 from Yazaki North America and
$2,500 from the Greektown Casino.
But interest in the aquarium has declined
over the years. In 1995, 113,000 people visited
the aquarium at Belle Isle, the city's island
park. In 2000, attendance fell to 86,000, and
only 56,000 people visited last year.
But the aquarium was averaging about 2,000
people a day in its final days, said Vance
Patrick, who handles corporate donations and
funding for Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium.
Patrick's son Spencer, 8, helped his dad hand
out fliers and sell wooden fish to raise money
to save the aquarium.
Spencer said he was helping "so people can be
inspired about why fish are a part of our
Fred Bryson of River Rouge came Sunday for a
final visit and said he wished the city could
have cut elsewhere in the budget so the
attraction could remain open.
"I hope Kwame (Mayor Kilpatrick) is happy,"
said Bryson. "Somebody should step forward."
George Bracy, 62, of Detroit, agreed. He took
the opportunity Sunday to show his two
grandchildren the aquarium for the first time.
"I am sure they could find a way," Bracy
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