Plans for an aquarium at the Crystal River Mall are on the fast track and the idea’s originator, Art Jones, is planning an open house/community brainstorming session as early as next month.
After that, Jones hopes to begin work on the first phase of the project and have it open to the public sometime in February or March.
“The open house will be a before look at the space and to hear from the community some design ideas,” Jones said.
“I want the community to be involved in this and we will be looking for volunteers to help us in any way they can,” he said.
Jones wants to use the soon-to-be-vacant Belk store at the Crystal River Mall to launch an aquarium that would showcase and teach residents and tourists about marine life in King’s Bay and the Nature Coast, with its rivers and inland lakes.
“Everything is interconnected, and the more educational opportunities people have, the more they will learn and a lot of pollution can be stopped at its source,” he said.
Belk will be vacating the 62,000-square-foot space Jan. 1.
Jones wants to marry his efforts cleaning up noxious algae called Lyngbya with the aquarium venture — a nonprofit/business partnership model.
He expects 10 percent of ticket sales from the venture to go his One Rake at a Time project, which with its army of volunteers has been removing dark-colored Lyngbya from the bottom of the bay for the past two years.
For Phase 1 of his aquarium effort, Jones envisions starting out with several tanks and an exhibition area where people can learn about the effects of pollution and the various measures being undertaken to combat it.
Jones said a research center at the aquarium also would provide good jobs for college graduates.
He said an animal or fish hospital is also in the plans to rescue and rehabilitate endangered species and other animals. Working field trips would be offered to eco-tour groups of people who want to work physically to help improve and restore the springs of King’s Bay, Jones added.
“Events are being planned to help raise money to build the aquarium at the new Crystal River band shell (at King’s Bay Park). Music and talent shows at the band shell in the spring on Sunday afternoons to help raise money for the One Rake at a Time project are on the drawing board now,” he said.
Volunteers are needed to help organize an aquarium logo contest and the naming of the site.
Those interested in working for the aquarium and One Rake projects or offering ideas about the name of the site and logo design can contact Jones at 727-642-7659, or email MrAWJones@aol.com.
Source: chronicleonline.com, mynews13.com