- reported by Samantha Lee Chancey
The Tennessee River is located right in the heart of Chattanooga, and the residents have certainly put their hearts into protecting their water.
Chattanooga residents have a lot to be proud of, because the Tennessee Aquarium
is currently celebrating its twentieth year
since its opening as the world’s largest freshwater aquarium in 1992. The aquarium began as a way to provide a new spark of life and revitalization downtown.
Architectural students from the University of Tennessee provided the first steps of the plan to create a waterfront aquarium which eventually evolved into a full-scale effort to reclaim what Walter Cronkite had previously condemned in a 1969 newscast as “the dirtiest city in America.” After opening its doors, the ambitious project has continued turning a dream into reality, and since that time both the aquarium and the community have been unstoppable.
According to Thom Benson, the aquarium’s communication’s manager, “When Chattanoogans roll up their sleeves and work together, truly awesome accomplishments result. Today visitors tell us how much they enjoy their time here. We hear praise for this city at the Aquarium all the time. And I think that’s pretty awesome.”
Becoming the number one attraction in Chattanooga is no easy task, but it’s not hard to see why the Tennessee Aquarium has stood
up to the challenge. Since its opening, the Aquarium has added new attractions such as an IMAX 3D Theater
, a second building called Ocean Journey, and the River Gorge Explorer
. In addition to these improvements, visitors can expect new and exciting exhibits
including Penguins’ Rock, Jellies Living Art, and a new River Giants exhibit
which will open on April 28th in celebration of the 20th anniversary.
As much as residents have put into maintaining the aquarium, the aquarium has given back to the community. The Aquarium’s education department
has brought exciting new programs including some of its own animals into schools across the United States, over the internet, and even into international classrooms.
As if that weren’t enough, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute
has had a wildly successful Saving the Sturgeon
program and is working hard to bring together freshwater scientists across the Southeast to continue the effort to clean up our water.
Best of all, no matter what changes have been made in the Aquarium over the years, its mission remains the same. And that mission is all about learning to protect our water sources. Benson explains how that goal has continued unchanged throughout the years.
“The visioning process that began more than 20 years ago focused the Aquarium’s story on freshwater, our most important resource. Today, that storyline is more important than ever, and will become even more important to all of us in the future.”
While people are enjoying what Benson describes as “an amazingly diverse collection of animals,” he hopes they will walk away with a deeper appreciation for nature, and that they will be “returning home inspired to take the small steps that collectively make a huge positive impact on our resources.”
to the Tennessee Aquarium cost $24.95 per adult and $14.95 per child between the ages 3-12. All proceeds help to support the Aquarium’s conservation programs.
Come join the celebration of twenty great years for the community and for environmental education, and you’ll understand why people are so passionate about the Aquarium. Benson sums it up best in saying, “In many ways, the Tennessee Aquarium is “Our Aquarium” to many people. And that is deeply appreciated.”
photo credit: Tennessee Aquarium