Jeff Lytle: This aquarium really is an education

JEFF LYTLE 
 Viktor Jarikov, his canopy in progress and some of the glass tanks covered with tarps, left.

JEFF LYTLE Viktor Jarikov, his canopy in progress and some of the glass tanks covered with tarps, left.

A few Sundays ago this column mentioned an "educational aquarium" in the works for Golden Gate Estates.

The brief item said the facility would be for field trips for schoolchildren.

After an on-site visit, I can tell you it's a lot more — and one heck of a story.

The owner/engineer of the project is Viktor Jarikov, who says he "just stumbled on" the ideal site to recreate the aquatic preserve that he and his wife, Iryna, built at their previous home in Rochester, N.Y., where the photochemistry Ph.D. worked at Kodak on the next generation of flat-screen technology known as organic LED. She was teaching math at the Rochester Institute of Technology and now teaches at Hodges University.

They are natives of Belarus in eastern Europe.

The site, well off Collier Boulevard south of the swamp buggy grounds and north of U.S. 41, is breathtaking — 9.2 acres of bliss with lush landscaping, ponds, waterfalls, fountains, more ponds, big rocks and a house and art studio/gallery/guesthouse straight out of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" or HGTV.

It is the former enclave of world-famous artist Jonathan Green.

The Jarikovs bought it at foreclosure and are investing $100,000 and doing their own manual labor to open the aquarium — actually a courtyard full of aquariums 10 feet and longer in a courtyard between the house and the arts pod.

Some of the fish that will be on display are being kept in spas and fountains already on the grounds, and Jarikov's main task is to erect a canopy from sun and rain.

He promises to display the biggest freshwater fish from around the world and stress the importance of protecting each species' ecology.

Can these fish be found elsewhere in Florida? Yes, he says, if you want to drive to "my competition" — aquariums in Sarasota or Tampa. Then Jarikov acknowledges his layout is "a tiny potato" compared to Mote Marine Laboratory or the Florida Aquarium.

He says the project is moving through the Collier County government review process, which is mandating limits on crowds, which Jarikov says is fine because Morgan Road, leading from Sabal Palm Road to his Eden, is narrow and unpaved anyway. He is optimistic that traffic issues that snared a longtime mini-zoo/preserve in Golden Gate Estates won't be a problem for him.

The eclectic air of the spot is typified by the name of the property next door, Hey Dude Ranch.

Jarikov calls his hobby turned business fishkeeping. Turns out, fishkeeping, especially extreme fishkeeping, has quite a global following. There is a community of fishkeepers, some of them at places called fish rescue centers, on the Internet.

If you check that out, you can drop in on Jarikov's project. Google him for timely pictures and updates. There is even space online for observers to ask questions and offer advice.

This is a very Naples story. Money and big plans. One difference: He isn't asking for anyone else's money and seems to know what he's doing.

We'll stay tuned.n n nSome sad news. Eddie Filer, one of this newspaper's most prolific, earnest and often irritating letter writers for two decades, has died.He was 88.

The finale of this column set out to be an invitation to friends and yes, even onetime foes, to send him a card, at his home, 638 93rd Ave. N., Naples, 34108. Then on Friday morning the news arrived that the diminutive man with the gentle speaking voice — who roared with letters on materialism, respect for one another and the environment, organic gardening and atheism — had passed away at home, where he had been getting hospice care.

When a family friend first asked for a little notice about Filer's declining health she wrote "We're thinking of you, Eddie." We still are.

Lytle is editorial page editor of the Daily News. His email address is jlytle@naplesnews.com. Call him at 239-263-4773.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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