By Mark A. Diaz
The Central Coast Aquarium (CCA) located at 50 San Juan St, Avila Beach celebrated the unveiling of its expanded facilities with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, June 9. Through hard work and generous donations, the CCA created an enclosed area adjacent to the building.
The Ocean Discovery Park is currently in its first phase of development which included clearing away the brush on the lot and constructing a chest-high wall to enclose the facility. In progress for approximately three years, the area is designed to provide an outdoor educational space for the almost 5,000 students that visit the aquarium each year.
“This project, the Discovery Park, was initially created to have outdoor space for an outdoor classroom for the student groups that we serve,” Executive Director, Christine Johnson.
The second phase of the project involves establishing lighting and installing gates at the entrance, as well as a permanent board with the list of donors that made the expansion possible. CCA staff is currently researching different types of structures needed for shade, as well as create a comfortable and convenient teaching area.
When not being utilized for educational purposes or housing marine life, Ocean Discovery Park will be offered as a rental space for community use. Johnson said that they are currently hammering out cost and use details, but that the area has already been booked for a wedding rehearsal taking place in 2019.
“It really is a community resource for the whole county,” said Johnson referring to the aquarium and the park.
CCA works closely with Cal Poly Pier’s Center for Coastal Marine Science. The university provides saltwater from its pier for the enclosed aquatic system, supplies a steady stream of intern aquarists and lends assistance to the system or marine life when needed. Currently, CCA is housing three horseshoe crabs from the East Coast that the students use for research. The crabs’ blood is blue due to the fact the hemocyanin used to transfer oxygen through their blood contains copper; humans use hemoglobin for oxygen transfer. Their blood also contains amebocytes, which is used detection of bacterial endotoxins in medical applications.
One intern at the CCA, Jessica Nash, a Cal Poly marine science student, participated in the two-day beach dive cleanup in Avila as part of her internship project. The first portion, done the previous week entailed divers collecting refuse under Hartford Pier. She said that approximately 80 percent of the trash recovered came from below the surface. All in all, Nash said that 375 pounds of debris was removed from the water that included safes, tires, bottles and fishing nets.
“There is a decrease in the amount of trash we’re picking up, so that’s really good,” said Nash who is also a diver. “It is heavy, and in my opinion the most import part of the pickup.”
One the same say Ocean Discovery Park was unveiled people were invited as part of the program to pick up trash around Avila. Armed with gripping tools and orange buckets individuals and families scoured the streets and the beach looking for thoughtlessly discarded waste.
The festivities included food, live entertainment and educational booths that lined the new park.