AURORA — To mark the redevelopment of the former SeaWorld Ohio, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking for permission to recognize dolphins it said died during the former amusement park’s 30 years of operation.

City Council on Monday approved a conceptual plan for a mixed retail-commercial development on property where Geauga Lake and SeaWorld were once located off Route 43 at the city’s northern border. The company will need to submit preliminary and final site plans for several phases as development continues.

Aurora Councilor John Kudley said he isn’t sure whether the city could grant the request for a memorial on the former SeaWorld site, as the property is privately owned.

Aurora Planning Commission chair Kathi Grandillo, who also serves as Ward 5 Councilor, said she replied to the letter with "two points."

"The project that was approved is not physically on the site of the old SeaWorld and/or waterpark but rather is using the old SeaWorld/waterpark parking lot only and the old Geauga Lake campground property," she said. "The second point is that the city does not own or control any of that property – it is owned by Cedar Fair and I am guessing that Pulte will now finalize their purchase of the parking lot and campground area ... in any event, PETA would need to discuss putting anything on any of the property with the owners."

In a letter to Aurora City Council, PETA representative Donna Tiu called the now-defunct attraction an "abusement park."

"While dolphins are no longer held captive at this location, at other SeaWorld parks across the country, 140 of them are squeezed into just seven small tanks, where they can't escape attacks from other frustrated, aggressive dolphins," the letter stated "They're forcibly bred — sometimes after being drugged — and they're used in cruel circus-style shows in which ‘trainers’ stand on their faces and ride on their backs like surfboards.

"In nature, orcas may swim as far as 140 miles in a day and bottlenose dolphins may swim up to 60 miles a day, dive to depths of nearly 1,500 feet, and maintain dynamic relationships within a large social network. Yet 10 dolphins died in cramped tanks in Aurora, and hundreds of others are still suffering for human entertainment," the letter stated.

"We hope you'll agree that a memorial to the dolphins who died at SeaWorld would go a long way toward ensuring that others don't endure the same fate in the future. Thank you for your consideration."

PETA claims many of the dolphins died prematurely from systemic infection, lung disease, and gastrointestinal disease, among other causes .

In a release, PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said PETA "Intends to pay tribute" to the animals’ "suffering."

"SeaWorld Ohio may be a footnote in Aurora's history, but the 10 dolphins who died there shouldn't be forgotten," Reiman stated.

SeaWorld Ohio opened in 1970 and closed in 2000.

In a statement, SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando said the call for a monument is a "publicity stunt."

"While PETA is engaging in yet another publicity stunt and spreading the same lies, disinformation and falsehoods to advance their fundraising agenda, we remain committed to world-class animal care, education, conservation and research," the statement read.

SeaWorld referred to a study produced by a non-profit research and education facility in the Florida Keys.

"A groundbreaking 2019 study by the Dolphin Research Center looked at close to 40 years of U.S. government data and found that that bottlenose dolphins in zoological facilities including SeaWorld live for just as long, if not longer, than their counterparts in the wild," the statement concluded.

Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or