A bridge too far? Aquarium: Feud with Power Plant hurts everyone, which is why mayor should intervene.

July 18, 1998

NOW IT'S getting ridiculous. Owners of the Power Plant are demanding that the city tear down a wooden pedestrian bridge linking two sections of the Inner Harbor's popular National Aquarium.

Why? Because aquarium officials allegedly acted in "bad faith" in a dispute over placement of a barge-like restaurant in the water between the two sites.

Such pressure tactics are bound to backfire. If the Power Plant owners win their case, it will inconvenience hundreds of thousands of visitors. Everyone will suffer -- the city, the aquarium and tenants at the Power Plant.

What precipitated this increasingly nasty dispute was belated disclosure of city approval for a large seafood restaurant -- resembling a Louisiana shrimp boat -- on a permanent structure in the water between the aquarium and the Power Plant piers. Aquarium officials are demonstrative in opposing the restaurant site, fearing the harm it could do to future development plans.

Just a week ago, the two sides were all smiles at the opening of the ESPN Zone in the Power Plant. Now they are trading angry letters and demanding strict adherence to legal agreements -- some of which haven't been made public.

Enough already. Peace must be restored.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke should step in, using the prestige of his office to act as a peacemaker. Both operations draw huge numbers of visitors. They must be persuaded to work closely together, especially as the Inner Harbor approaches its busiest point of the tourist season.

The mayor should accelerate city approval of a permanent diagonal walkway for the aquarium. But the temporary wooden bridge should remain until a replacement walkway is ready.

What is most needed, though, is for the warring factions to sit down and work out their differences. Petty, vindictive actions won't solve anything.

Pub Date: 7/18/98

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