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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 recess.

You can reach David Josar at (313) 222-2073 or djosar@detnews.com

Original article: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080724/METRO/807240460/1409/METRO