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Aquarium could boost tourism

A public aquarium could be the next big attraction for Campbell River.

A local organization – Discovery Passage SeaLife Society – recently purchased a former aquarium building in Ucluelet and re-located the facility here.

The educational aquarium would be full of sea life found off our shores and could open as soon as spring 2013.

“We think you will find it’s a tremendous community asset,” Sandra Milligan, director of Discovery Passage SeaLife Society, told council Tuesday night. “Its goals are to raise awareness about local marine biodiversity and promote respect for the ocean environment.”

The aquarium would be a way to showcase all the creatures living in the waters surrounding Campbell River. Public aquariums typically include touch tanks and a number of educational programs.

It would also be a boon to the local economy, Milligan said.

The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney (east of Victoria) opened in 2009 and in its first year and half of operation attracted 200,000 visitors. Milligan said it’s now the third most popular attraction on Vancouver Island.

Seeing an opportunity, the Discovery Passage SeaLife Society scooped up Ucluelet’s original 16 x 48 foot aquarium building which opened in 2004. Ucluelet purchased a new aquarium on June 1, 2012, leaving the old one vacant and that’s when Discovery Passage SeaLife Society stepped in and bought the older facility with the help of the Campbell River Rotary Club.

The building comes with all the pumps and equipment needed to run the aquarium. All the society needs is a place to put the facility.

The aquarium has to be on waterfront property in order to pump salt into the tanks. It also has to be in a visible location with access to water, sewer and parking, Milligan said.

The society has narrowed down three locations – the city’s downtown 3.5 acre waterfront property; Robert Ostler Park or the Maritime Heritage Centre/Discovery Pier area.

City staff are expected to present a report to council, suggesting an ideal spot for the aquarium.

The aquarium could be the first of two big attractions to debut in Campbell River next year. The Rotary Club’s latest project – a suspension bridge over Elk Falls – could be operational as soon as next June.

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