|SKIPPER'S BLOG: Tiny Town Wants Public Aquarirum
It's an ambitious little project for a town with barely enough full-time residents to put together a hockey game, but it's an interesting one nonetheless. It seems there is a proposal by the town
of Champney’s West, NL, to build a public marine aquarium and touch tank — and the project is gaining momentum and support from government agencies and even Memorial University.
Champney’s West about 70 kilometres from
Clarenville. According to a press release this morning, it’s a one road community that has about 65 permanent residents
and 30 summer residents and there are no commercial enterprises.
The press release further notes that Dr. Bill Driedzic, a
professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences and the Canada Research Chair in
Marine Bioscience, has had a summer home in the community for nearly a decade. He says town members approached him a little over a year ago to help put together the
“This proposal is for
a small aquarium for the community – a facility small enough that it can be
operated by the local people,” said Driedzic.
The marketing and
business plan for the Champney’s West Marine Aquarium says the objective of the
facility is to strengthen the community infrastructure, and in doing so,
improve the economic development capacity while enhancing visitor experience.
The aquarium will
include four large viewing tanks and a touch tank and will be open to the
public from June until October annually, engaging four seasonal employees.
“The 50 foot by 30
foot building will be a basic clapboard structure that would fit in with the
community architecture,” explained Driedzic. “In addition to the viewing
tanks and touch tank there would be shelving units for selling marine biology
related souvenirs and craft items and a closed off area where we would keep the
nuts and bolts of the operation.”
The Champney’s West
Heritage Group, an incorporated body that already operates a museum within the
community, would own the facility.
“The aquarium would
be a living extension of the museum,” said Dr. Driezic. “The museum has
artifacts that show how people used to live and the aquarium makes the intellectual
connect – here are the fish, and the museum has the tools that were used to
catch the fish.”
In-kind and financial
support has already been pledged in principal by the Department of Fisheries
and Aquaculture, and the proposal has been pre-reviewed by both the Atlantic
Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and the federal government — but the
official approvals have yet to come. ACOA is being asked for $60,000 and the
province is being approached for another $40,000. Memorial University has also
pledged more than $27,000 in in-kind contributions through the Department of
“In addition, we’ve
already received about $25,000 worth of viewing tanks from Huntsman Marine
Science Centre in St. Andrew’s, N.B. They will be stored in Champney’s West
until we’re ready to use them.”
Dr. Driedzic adds
that if the applications to ACOA and the provincial government are successful,
there will still need to be a fundraising drive to match those funds.
“It’s a $300,000
set-up,” he said. “So, beyond the money and in-kind contributions already
committed, they will need to find an additional $100,000. For a small town
that’s huge. The university and its supporters are going to need to step up to
the plate and help them with that as well.”
Wow. That's a lot of money and a big project for a little town. It's not exactly Marine Land, but it sounds like something more than just a larger than usual household aquarium with a cod, a sculpin and three starfish, being manned and monitored by a couple of summer students is afoot here.
A wise man once said to me, you've got to think big. If you want to get over the back fence, sometimes you have to shoot for the moon. No doubt this is a moonshot for Champney's West, but one that will bear watching.
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