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After 7 years, Belle Isle Aquarium re-opens to the public

via belleisleconservancy.org

The nation’s oldest aquarium is up and running once again.

Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium will be open to visitors Saturday for the first time since 2005, when the city shut it down due to a lack of funds.

That’s thanks to the efforts of volunteers, who’ve worked to restore the 108-year-old building and its aquatic population for the past seven years.

Things really got rolling in the past year, when several volunteer groups merged to form the Belle Isle Conservancy. They implemented two major grants to rehab the historic building.

The group acknowledges the aquarium is still a work in progress—local art exhibits fill some of the tanks that are still being rehabbed. But the Belle Isle Conservancy’s Vance Patrick said it was time to let the public in.

“A lot of people coming through here, they’re saying “Wow, this is exactly the way it was when I was a kid,” Patrick said. “The conservancy is excited to give back to the community.”

A one-day, sneak-peek opening in February drew thousands, and aquarium volunteers say they expect a similar crowd for the grand re-opening Saturday.

The Conservancy’s Jennifer Boardman is excited that visitors will see the building as it was meant to be seen.

“It was created as an aquarium by Albert Kahn at the turn of the century,” Boardman said. “It’s supposed to be an aquarium. It is an aquarium. And it’s going to continue to be an aquarium, hopefully forever.”

The Belle Isle Aquarium is will be open Saturdays from 10 am-3 pm. Admission is free.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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