In 1985, the state of North Carolina purchased land in the town of Manteo on Roanoke Island. Originally known as the “Marine Resources Center”, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island was the first of the state Aquarium Division. Located in the Outer Banks, the aquarium sees over 300,000 visitors each year.
In 2001 the facility underwent a major expansion increasing the exhibit space to 90,000 square feet while still maintaining 16 acres of land around the facility for outdoor programing. After decades of not being able to access the sound for education or recreation programs, the exhibit and education department submitted a grant to the Coastal Recreational Fishing License Division requesting funding to support the construction of a sound-front pier. While the grant partially funded the project, the state matched the funding. Today the complete pier extends 200 feet into the sound and features a kayak launch, crabbing, and two finishing decks for educational programing. It also has a gazebo at the end of the pier and is a popular location for weddings.
For the past few years, exhibits director Larry Warner and his staff have been working with Pannier to create 11 panels that are places along the length of the pier.
“Part of the educational requirements we wrote into the original grant, these signs not only convey great scientific, historical and geographical information, but also represent an amazing partnering effort with many other facilities, scientists, historians, artists and residents of the area,” said Warner.
The aquarium chose to use Pannier’s newest panel product Gel Coat Laminate due to its marine grade durability. GCL is able to withstand the extreme sunlight as well as the hard wind, sand and saltwater. They also utilized Pannier’s ability to cut panels to shape to achieve the unique shape of their signs.
“The architects on the project had presented a very elegant design and as I worked with them, I decided that I wanted to make the signs unique in shape across the top edge to create design interest and compliment the overall pier design,” said Warner. “Also, knowing that each of these signs would extend out over the water, I could get away with this since people could never walk around the sign entirely.”
The designing of the panels was a team effort for the aquarium as well. Warner created the shape of the signs, background and basic template. His exhibits team then shared the effort of designing the panels with support of the education staff. Many of the panels are located along the pier in such a way as to allow visitors to find reference points from where they are standing and reading the support the subject matter on the signs in front of them.
“The aquarium staff worked with Pannier long before I came on board as Curator of Exhibits four years ago,” said Warner. “We currently have Pannier signage on property that is approaching 10 years plus and still looks amazing! Without the willingness of Robin Heddeaus, her colleagues and Pannier engineers to think outside of the box on this project, I’m not sure we would have achieved the amazing results that are now installed on our fantastic educational pier! I am indebted to their creative support and to Pannier’s fine product, which will educate and entertain our guests for years to come.”