Neighbors push Detroit Zoo to turn down roar of noise

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — Neighbors of the Detroit Zoo say their complaints about noise at the facility has nothing to do with animals.

It has to do with a different creature — humans.

During a public forum Thursday night, residents of Royal Oak and Huntington Woods said the cacophony is caused by concerts, a public address system and simulated prehistoric growls for a dinosaur exhibit.

They complained about events that started early in the morning and others that lasted late into the evening.

“The bottom line is: the noise has to be decreased,” said resident Jay Schwartz. “Instead of trying to mitigate it, don’t generate it.”

The meeting, held at the zoo’s theater building, was attended by 60 residents.

Zoo officials told the residents they have taken several steps to mitigate the sound problems.

Among the measures: consult with a sound engineer, relocate events away from residences, point speakers away from nearby homes and add volume controls to all exhibit speakers.

Gerry VanAcker, zoo chief operating officer, said staffers would even try to quiet the roars from the popular Dinosauria exhibit.

“We’ve met with experts to eliminate the noise as much as possible,” he said.

But some residents were dissatisfied with just discussing the issue.

Aaron Retish of Huntington Woods said residents have complained about the noise for years.

It’s time for the zoo to go beyond words and take action to reduce the problem, he said.

“It’s good to say you want to be a good neighbor,” he told VanAcker. “How do we avoid having the same discussion year after year?”

Retish said he was especially concerned by the rising number of events at the zoo that involved heightened noise.

Arthur Woehrlen of Royal Oak said he has watched the institution change from a zoo to a concert venue. This was especially troublesome for Woehrlen because his job requires him to wake at 5 a.m.

“I would like to project the same sounds at you three hours after you go to bed and see how you like it,” he told VanAcker.

Woehrlen said the problem is exacerbated when the noise is caused by a group leasing the zoo. He said the zoo has said it has no control over such groups.

“Whatever you think you’re doing, it’s not working,” he said.