National Aquarium Wants to Bring Nature Back to Inner Harbor

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Rendering courtesy National Aquarium/Ayers Saint Gross

The National Aquarium’s location right on the harbor has always been fitting for an institution dedicated to marine life. Over the next three years, the Aquarium plans to create a new “environmental district” that makes Inner Harbor itself a connecting point to the natural world.

The Aquarium unveiled plans on Thursday for an expansion of its waterfront campus that brings natural environment along the Harbor. Specific plans include:

  • Between Piers 3 and 4, a re-creation of a wetland habitat with floating wetlands, underwater shelves with bay grasses and “terraced edges” that bring people closer to the water.
  • On Pier 4, a re-creation of a Chesapeake Bay habitat;
  • Upgrades to the park near the entrance to the Aquarium
  • Interactive stations
  • A new “signature sculpture” for the Aquarium

The idea is to create a “model urban waterfront.” It’s being designed to fit with a larger effort to modernize Inner Harbor called Harbor 2.0.

Rendering via National Aquarium/Ayers Saint Gross
Rendering via National Aquarium/Ayers Saint Gross

Along with making the city’s prime area for visitors look more natural, officials said the new features will factor into the Aquarium’s education programs. Bay restoration, water quality in an urban environment and native species are a few areas in which the outdoor space can help teach.

Along with the new spaces, the Aquarium also wants to help to lead a community resource initiative aimed at environmental education. The examples of conservation can also help inspire action, Aquarium officials said. The Aquarium to establish a research effort to work on Bay restoration.

“At its core, this revitalization is about re-connecting Baltimoreans with their waterfront as a place for exploration and discovery. We plan to show the nation how an urban waterfront can also be a healthy one,” said Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

The $14 million project is being funded through a mix of public and private sources, as well as Aquarium funds.

This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. on 1/28/2016 to reflect newly obtained info about specific plans.

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