Downtown aquarium gets the okay

The aquarium is expected to showcase the native species that can be found in our oceans

A downtown public aquarium will be established at the fishing pier, following an endorsement from council.

Working with city staff, the Discovery Passage SeaLife Society recently chose to set up the aquarium in the grassy area adjacent to the northern ramp at the fishing pier, which council supported Tuesday night.

David Morris, the city’s general manager of facilities and supply management, said the city sees no problems with the society’s decision.

“This does indeed appear to be a very good site,” Morris said. “From the city’s perspective…it would not negatively impact on the existing facilities, in fact it would be an enhancement.”

Coun. Andy Adams said the aquarium, which was purchased from Ucluelet with the help of the Noon Hour Rotary Club, will make a great addition to the Pier Street area.

“I would certainly concur that this will be a welcome enhancement to our marine foreshore and Maritime Heritage and pier area,” Adams said.

Coun. Claire Moglove said the only concern she had with the project was the appearance of the building, which is currently painted bright red and white.

Moglove said she would like to see the facility blend in with the existing infrastructure.

Coun. Ron Kerr had the same reservations.

“I’m concerned with the appearance,” he said. “Does form and character apply, does it need by law to conform to the pier or Maritime Heritage Centre?”

Sandra Milligan, Discovery Passage SeaLife Society director, said the project will be subject to the same process as any other new building and in the aquarium’s case, that means a Foreshore Development Permit and a Form and Development Permit because of its location.

“We will be using a colour scheme and exterior to match the existing location to enhance this maritime theme,” Milligan said. “Yes, we will be going through the same development requirements (as other builders).”

The aquarium is expected to showcase the native species that can be found in our oceans and may include a touch tank as well as offer educational programs for students in School District 72 and at North Island College.

Milligan said based on the aquarium’s success in Ucluelet, she expects the aquarium could be a boon to the local economy.

“In Ucluelet, in the very first year of operation, they saw some 10,000 visitors,” she 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 (near Victoria), the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre attracted 200,000 visitors in 2009 – its first year of operation – and is currently the third most popular attraction on Vancouver Island, according to Milligan.