(Chris Zadorozny/MJ)
(Chris Zadorozny/MJ)

BY ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Opinion Editor

As someone who has mad love for the city of Detroit, I really cannot tell you how much I adore Belle Isle. Truly a natural haven surrounded by urban industry, the park is such that one can always find an adventure of some sort waiting for them upon arrival.

Whether you prefer hiking up to the old lighthouse, exploring the massive variety of plants in the conservatory, or climbing the concrete slabs on the eastern point and flinging your arms out a-la Leonardo DiCaprio, this urban oasis has something for everyone to enjoy. And now, you (yes you!) can make these experiences even better.

The Pepsi Refresh Project is currently hosting a contest of sorts, with the prize being a $50,000 grant allocation. Each participant is an initiative intended to improve communities all over the country. The only one that concerns us, however, is the Detroit-based one spearheaded by the Friends of Belle Isle, geared towards the revamping and subsequent unveiling of the now-closed Belle Isle Aquarium. If all goes as planned, the facility could be reopened within the next five to ten years.

Designed by locally-based (albeit world-renowned) architect Albert Kahn and opening in 1904, the Belle Isle Aquarium was (until it closed) the nation’s largest freshwater aquarium. With the addition of this potential grant money to the already-received funds from both the state and the federal government, construction could begin on components such as the roof and windows as early as May of next year. How exciting is that?

At this point, I am sure you must be asking yourself what you can possibly do to help this great and worthy cause. The answer, my friends, is very simple. You have two options. You can vote for the money to go towards the Belle Isle Aquarium by visiting the Pepsi website, www.refresheverything.com/belle-isle-aquarium. Once on the site, click the vote button. You can do this up to five times daily. Or, more conveniently, text the numbers “110635” to “73774,” also up to five times a day – it’s that easy!

As of last week, the Belle Isle project was 13th in the national contest. In order to be eligible, it needs to be one of the top ten finalists. The Friends of the Belle Isle are asking that everyone who supports this initiative (and why wouldn’t you?) to please vote at least once a day for the entire month of December so that we can move on up and come out victorious!

I am going to compound their simple request with my own personal plea. Just think how cool it would be to have an aquarium downtown again. And, on a broader scale, think of what this would do for the city of Detroit. For the children who live there and in the surrounding metro area. Think of what it would do to everyones’ attitudes and perceptions about the big, bad city. The reopening of the Belle Isle Aquarium can bring nothing but good vibes to our metropolis, and we have the opportunity to literally be handed money to make this happen. This may never happen again; we need to take advantage of this one chance offered to us.

So please, take a moment out of your busy lives and do Detroit a solid. Then tell your friends to do the same. Spread the word as far as your network allows! If we take thirty seconds out of our daily activities and send one text, we can alter our urban environment in a positive way for all of our future prosperity.

And I can’t imagine a better Christmas present than that.