Our thoughts – Campbell River’s waterfront

This letter was sent to both of our local newspapers (Campbell River Mirror & Campbell River Courier-Islander) on Feb 21, 2014. It was published in the Campbell River Courier-Islander on Feb 26, 2014.

To the editor,

We read with much interest the proposal for the 9.5 acre Campbell River waterfront and would like to offer our thoughts on the proposed use. A few of our staff participated in the charette session that was hosted by the city and offered some recommendations that we strongly believe would benefit Campbell River.

Our not for profit organization is committed to studying, educating and maintaining the health and welfare of aquatic species – including the salmon in our local aquatic environments. We believe that with appropriate use, this parcel of land has the potential to provide Campbell River with an opportunity to embrace its heritage and its future, as ‘Salmon Capital of the World’. The Discovery Passage and the other passages that join the Salish Sea to Johnstone Strait in the region are significant wild salmon passages – making our local marine environment critical to the welfare of salmon in BC. The Tyee Club of British Columbia is also of significant historical importance to our community. The Quinsam Hatchery is one of the largest and most modern salmon enhancement hatcheries operating in BC and Campbell River is also the headquarters for salmon farming in BC. So we really are the Salmon Capital and we should celebrate and embrace that!

During the charette session, we proposed that the land be used to build a centre that draws people to meet, learn about, and take pride in the natural beauty that surrounds our home – rather than creating more retail and residential space, which may only benefit a few. Our vision includes the establishment of an Aquatic Health Centre in the south west corner (the 3.5 acre parcel) of the land to provide an anchor for the rest of the development on the site. We propose that this would be a multiuse facility that would include a permanent home for an aquatic research facility, and a larger Aquarium. A well-equipped aquatic research facility would attract experts (and their families) from around the world interested in salmon health and aquatic environmental studies, and would provide a venue for dialogue between stakeholders interested in maintaining aquatic health. A larger Aquarium would also showcase our spectacular aquatic environment and contribute to tourism. Attracting young families to Campbell River would make this city much more vibrant and will start the ball rolling in economic growth in the area. This type of facility exists in Bergen, Norway and has become a significant gathering point for the community.

Since its opening in 2013, the Discovery Passage Aquarium has been a welcome addition to our community. The hands-on aquarium experience provides the public with a close up view of the sea life that inhabits the local waters and has proven to be immensely popular. The Aquarium would like to expand into educational programs for all demographics of our community. We, at BC-CAHS, believe that education is an integral component of the public stewardship of our ocean environment. Access to educational programming enables the public to have a better understanding of the aquatic animal life in the waters around the Campbell River region.

Given the strong support for our research centre, and the popularity of the newly established aquarium, we predict continued success in Campbell River – but recognize a need for increased space in the future. As we have seen in the community of Ucluelet, the size of the Aquarium quickly proved to be inadequate as the popularity of their Aquarium grew. BC-CAHS is also experiencing growing pains in the sense that the present space that we are located in is tight for the research and diagnostic work that we do, and there is little room for expansion. Our centre is in need of a larger space along the Discovery Passage waterfront. We would welcome being located in a centralized, state of the art facility that can house both organizations. We would propose that the facility include wet lab facilities (which we currently do not have access to) with sufficient space to provide educational programs in cooperation with educational institutions (North Island College) and tourist/educational attractions (Discovery Passage Aquarium). Other organizations that that we believe would support this concept include the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, A-Tlegay Fisheries Society, School District 72 and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Inspirations for this idea include the Deep Bay Marine Field Station and the Bergen Aquarium.

We believe that this concept would offer opportunity for world class collaborative aquatic animal health research and would celebrate the historic connection to the ocean that Campbell River is known for.

Sincerely,

Sonja Saksida DVM MSc
Chief Executive Officer
BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences

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