Visitors to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will have to wait a few months before they can again access the marsh boardwalk, overlooks, outdoor habitats and nature play area at the site while renovations and improvements are made.
Aquarium officials closed the areas Monday.
The walkway built in 1994 stretches behind the aquarium along the edge of Bogue Sound and through the maritime forest.
Admired Builders of Kinston has been contracted to replace all existing deck boards with a more water-resistant composite material to increase the walkway’s longevity. Handrails are to be replaced with aluminum, and other repairs will happen as needed during the renovation, officials said Monday.
Work replacing the deck boards will be completed by the end of May, and a date for the walkway to reopen to the public will be announced.
“The Marsh Boardwalk has been a way for our guests, staff, and volunteers to connect with the nature we have right in our backyards,” North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Director Clint Taylor said in a statement. “It allows for extraordinary scenic views in event photography, provides a window into the life found in the Bogue Sound estuaries, and leads guests to many of the Aquarium’s outdoor areas. Renovating the boardwalk will enhance our visitors’ overall experience.”
Taylor added that while the boardwalk is closed, some of the outdoor experiences won’t be accessible to the public, including the Alice Hoffman Nature Trail, Tree-mendous Play Area, Snakes: Hidden Inhabitants area, the outdoor box turtle habitat, and the Eagle Landing open-air bald eagle habitat.
The public would be unable to view most of the animals in the outdoor habitats regardless, because during winter they are kept in warmer areas. The bald eagles in Eagle Landing are also kept behind the scenes as a precaution against the most recent avian flu cases in the state.
During the boardwalk closure, aquarium staff are offering alternative experiences and habitats for visitors for the outside activities.
Guests with children who want to play can visit the Imagination Bay indoor play area across from the gift shop, the Discovery Classroom is open for crafts and activities at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, and educators offer a special Toddler Time program at 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays featuring a different aquatic theme each week.
While the Alice Hoffman Nature Trail is unavailable, guests can still hike along the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area nature trail.
All three North Carolina Aquariums will close to the public Jan. 29-Feb. 2 while staff take on projects. The boardwalk renovation is among the projects expected to continue after the aquariums reopen at 9 a.m. Feb. 3.