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Rosamond Gifford Zoo to be heavily involved in new aquarium development

An artist rendering of a proposed $85 million aquarium in the Inner Harbor section of Syracuse
Onondaga County
An artist rendering of a proposed $85 million aquarium in the Inner Harbor section of Syracuse

Now that Onondaga County lawmakers have agreed to move ahead with an $85 million aquarium project, the work begins to create the facility. While there are still questions about design and operation yet to be answered, the one thing that’s certain is that the Rosamond Gifford Zoo will be heavily involved.

Zoo Director Ted Fox has been part of the discussions from the start.

"Now we’ve got a lot of work to do to prove to the community that this was the right decision,” Fox said. “And that’s why we said from early on it’s got to be connected to the zoo and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”

The next phase of the project is design and engineering, and after that, an operator of the aquarium can be designated. After that, Fox can use connections with other A.Z.A. experts, scientists and veterinarians on things like species selection.

Fox said visitors could expect creatures ranging from crustaceans to sharks, and there are conservation initiatives that could fit with the aquarium, like the work being done with cold-shocked turtles.

“Where young turtles, that because of climate change and the water temperatures changing, they get stuck in northern waters,” he said. “When it gets too cold for them to move south when they usually would, a lot of zoos and aquariums have taken on responsibilities to get them health care and release them, and this would certainly be a great place to do that."

One thing Fox isn’t worried about is the aquarium cannibalizing the zoo.

“It’s an opportunity for us to be sending the same message saying the same things and helping people understand what our mission is, because it is the same for both facilities,” he said. “And this has been proven in other facilities. That’s just going to enhance and strengthen our messaging.”

Ultimately, Fox hopes one close vote doesn’t cloud the future of the aquarium.

“I wish it was all as positive as I hoped it would be, but now’s the time we want to make sure that everybody understands, this was a good decision, even if it was a hard one,” he said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.