Mayor moves to
turn Belle Isle zoo, aquarium into carousel, skate park
|David Josar /
The Detroit News
DETROIT -- The Kilpatrick administration is
moving ahead with plans to convert the shuttered
Belle Isle Zoo and the Belle Isle Aquarium into
new attractions that could feature gift shops, a
carousel and X Games-like amenities with
zip-lines and skateboard parks.
Several members of the City Council want both
facilities, which were closed in 2005 due to the
city's fiscal crisis, to reopen but are starting
to realize their dream may not mesh with the
financial realities of the city and the desires
of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
"We never should have closed," Councilwoman
JoAnn Watson said Thursday morning.
The aquarium, which had been the oldest
operating aquarium when it was shuttered, had
4,000 species of fish that were dispersed to a
variety of caretakers.
The building was designed by Albert Kahn and had
110,000 visitors the year it closed.
City planning director Marcell Todd said the
cost, not citing a dollar figure, of reopening
the facility have increased substantially
because of deterioration of equipment that has
occurred since the shutdown.
The zoo and aquarium have been turned over to
the Recreation Department.
Interim Recreation Department Director Lawrence
C. Hemingway said the department is looking at
several plans for the facilities that include X
Games-like activities. "The city doesn't' have
anything like that," he said.
The city has earmarked $1.5 million for
renovations but the expenditure hasn't been
forwarded to the council for final approval.
The council will revisit the issue in September
when the members return from their summer
You can reach David Josar at (313) 222-2073 or