SOPE takes students to Belle Isle State Park


Mary Mitchell

The aquarium of Belle Isle houses animals native to the Great Lakes.

Between the luscious ferns and the towering palm trees of the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Oakland University students took their last warm day of summer – or first scorching day of fall – to enjoy what Detroit has to offer.

Sustaining Our Planet Earth (SOPE) organized a trip to Belle Isle last weekend for Oakland students. They enjoyed the two main attractions of the small island park: the conservatory and the aquarium, before going to one of the innumerable new restaurants in Detroit’s resurging downtown, Shake Shack.

SOPE is an organization that operates under University Housing that provides concern for the environment to the eight current housing buildings through events and sustainability services directed toward a more ecologically aware worldview.

SOPE member James Cook helped organize the trip with the goal of helping people be aware of the environment immediately surrounding Oakland.

“We’re trying to create an experience around what we have in our own back yard,” he said. “And to give people a taste of Detroit.”

Cook, a native Detroiter, was specifically referring to the former longest-running aquarium in North America before it took a hiatus starting in 2005, and the oldest continually running conservatory in the United States.

Construction for both facilities began in 1902 from designs by famed “Architect of Detroit” Albert Khan, who also created many of the most celebrated buildings in Detroit.

The aquarium houses a variety of tanks, most of which fall under its theme of Great Lakes aquatic life. While the conservatory houses everything from the arid cactus species to plants of the most tropical environments from Southeast Asia to South America.

Detroit’s bustling downtown has become, in recent years, one of the most common locales for Southeast Michigan residents. Restaurants across the city’s countless historic neighborhoods have become an increasingly popular commodity for everyone that comes to visit.

“It was a fun way to go outside and enjoy the weather,” said OU student Kaysha Mitchell, an attendant of the trip.

Even though the conservatory interior was much hotter than the nearly 90-degree weather, with it being a literal green house, it was still a beautiful sight to behold.