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Aquarium society likes Discovery Pier location

Former Ucluelet aquarium is super imposed on two sites where the SeaLife Society would like to place it. - Photo submitted
Former Ucluelet aquarium is super imposed on two sites where the SeaLife Society would like to place it.
— image credit: Photo submitted

A local group working to open a public aquarium in Campbell River announced this week it has selected a location for the facility.

Discovery Passage SeaLife Society, which purchased Ucluelet’s former aquarium earlier this year, wants to re-locate the building and set up shop at the pier.

Sandra Milligan, society director, said the organization has narrowed its selection down to two spots – either on top of the cement ramp to the left of the staircase up to the pier (which would still leave one ramp on the right) or in the grassy patch to the left of the stairs.

“The site that we’ve all looked at and agreed upon is right at the Discovery Pier entrance and we’re here tonight to ask for approval of installation of the aquarium at this site,” Milligan said during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The request was made to ensure the society is covered no matter which location it chooses. If the aquarium goes on the ramp, it will be sitting on city-owned land and will therefore need city approval but if it’s installed on the grassy patch, it will be on Campbell River Harbour Authority land.

Milligan said the society would like to work out a five-year, $5 per year lease agreement which would be similar to what landlords offer other public aquariums on the Island.

Campbell River became the owner of an aquarium after Discovery Passage SeaLife Society, with a generous donation from the Noon Hour Rotary Club, scooped up Ucluelet’s old 16 x 48 foot facility which opened in that community in 2004. Ucluelet purchased a new aquarium on June 1 of this year, leaving the old one up for grabs.

The building comes with all of the pumps and equipment needed to run the aquarium and needs to be on waterfront property in order to pump salt water into the tanks.

The aquarium will likely include a touch tank and educational programs. It will also show what Campbell River has to offer.

“For us in Campbell River of course it’s always great to showcase our assets,” Milligan said. “We know Campbell River is an excellent scuba diving location and a public aquarium allows us to bring those assets up from the sea to the surface for everybody to enjoy.”

Milligan said the society would like to partner with School District 72 as well as North Island College to provide unique learning programs for local students. She figures the aquarium will also help boost tourism and the local economy.

“In Ucluelet, in the very first year of operation they saw some 10,000 visitors,” Milligan said. “We know that a visitor to Campbell River spends on average $76 a day in town so we see this can generate a good deal of cash for our community.”

In Sidney (east of Victoria), the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre which opened in 2009, attracted 200,000 visitors in its first year and a half of operations and is now the third most popular attraction on Vancouver Island, Milligan said. Sensing an opportunity, Milligan first spoke to council in June and subsequently received approval for her proposal. Since then Milligan has been meeting with city staff on an ongoing basis to secure a location.

She said selecting the exact spot will come down to the siting of utilities.

“Utilities will likely constrain where we place the building,” Milligan said. “(There’s) a fire hydrant, hydro box, storm water drains and various Telus and hydro lines are running underground,” she said.

Next steps include securing a building permit and development permits from the city. City staff will also be preparing a report for council outlining aquarium siting options and impacts.

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