OC Officials Tour Aquarium On ‘Fact-Finding Mission’

OCEAN CITY — While the future of Ocean City’s eventual model block remains uncertain, resort officials this week toured the National Aquarium’s marine animal rescue facilities as part of a preliminary concept to develop similar facilities in the downtown area.

The concept of Ocean City developing a marine animal rescue and rehabilitation center was first broached during a strategic planning session in November. Mayor Rick Meehan said at the time he had cursory discussions with National Aquarium officials about consulting on a potential marine rescue and rehabilitation facility in downtown Ocean City on the future model block site. For years, the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) has been acquiring properties in a downtown city block loosely between Dorchester and Somerset streets for a future model block project.

Creating a marine rescue and rehabilitation center on the model block could solve the dual purpose of creating a facility in close proximity to where stranded sea creatures are often rescued while creating a unique tourist destination in downtown Ocean City.

At this point, the proposal is largely conceptual. However, Mayor Rick Meehan, OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin and City Engineer Terry McGean and others toured the marine animal rescue facilities at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and had cursory discussions with aquarium officials on how to make such a facility a reality in Ocean City. It’s important to note at this point the National Aquarium’s involvement is merely consultation and not considered a potential partnership.

“We had an excellent and very informative visit with the executive staff at the Baltimore Aquarium on Tuesday,” said Meehan following the aquarium visit. “It was interesting to see what they do and we believe, with proper planning, we could duplicate some of these same services at a facility in Ocean City. They stressed to us that there is a need for additional facilities and we all felt that Ocean City would be a perfect location.”

Meehan extolled the potential benefits of the proposed facility.

“We are in the very initial stage of discussions, but we plan to continue to gather information and hope to be able to present a plan to develop this type of facility in downtown Ocean City at some point in the near future,” he said.

For his part, Irwin agreed the meeting was productive, but acknowledged it was like a long way from becoming a reality.

“Our visit to the National Aquarium and the marine rescue facility was quite interesting, but it was, at this point, just a preliminary fact-finding mission to review the facilities and programs offered by the National Aquarium,” he said. “A specific plan to bring a similar concept to Ocean City will require substantial work in terms of planning, marketing, development costs and acquiring public support.”

National Aquarium officials reiterated the aquarium’s involvement at this point was more of a consultant and not a potential partner in the project.

“As part of this visit, our teams discussed what would be necessary for Ocean City to bring their own rescue center to life, meaning staff, resources and infrastructure, etc.,” said National Aquarium spokesperson Corinne Weaver. “This information share was an opportunity to be an expert source for the officials exploring this opportunity in your area. We have continued to offer our support as a consultant to provide insight and contacts as they consider building a center, not partnering to build one together.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.