The new Sneads Ferry branch library is scheduled to open by mid-March and the adjoining Education Center is not far behind, according to county officials.
Onslow County Public Library Director Estell Carter said the current Sneads Ferry Branch Library, located at 242 Sneads Ferry Road, is scheduled to close at 6 p.m. Feb. 28. On March 3, library staff will begin moving to the new building, located at 1330 N.C. 210.
“We are planning on opening the facility on or before March 17,” Carter said.
During the move, library patrons will not have access to a Sneads Ferry branch and would need to visit the Jacksonville, Swansboro or Richlands branches, she said. The book return, however, will remain open so materials can be returned. Fines or fees will not be charged during the transition period.
“That facility is going to help us bring a whole new level of library services to that community. The former location, which was only about 2,000 square feet, lacked a lot of the amenities that we need to provide really great service,” Carter said.
The new building will have meeting space, a 20-station computer lab, an improved library collection, reading and study areas, as well as the Environmental Education Center and outdoor classroom.
It will also offer more programs, like children’s story times and other educational programs.
“The community has been waiting for this for a long time. We get questions every day: ‘When is the building going to open?’ It’s a beautiful facility, I think it’s something the citizens can be proud of,” she said.
Currently the Sneads Ferry branch library serves about 2,000 people per month. Carter expects to see a 25 to 30-percent increase in traffic when the new facility opens.
“We expect to see heavy foot traffic in that building not just because the library is there but because it offers the other things too, the environmental education center and those other educational opportunities,” she said.
While the library plans to open in March, the Education Center is expected to follow in April, according to Onslow County Museum Director Lisa Whitman-Grice.
“It was a goal and part of the mission of this facility was that it must have an environmental education focus,” she said. “The exhibit we are calling ‘Discover Onslow’ and our goal, our mission is to create a deeper awareness and understanding for our residents and for our visitors because this will also be, we are certain, a tourism draw and to create that deeper awareness and understanding and appreciation for the natural beauty and natural spaces in Onslow County.”
According to Whitman-Grice, the exhibit will focus on the natural environment and will discuss the White Oak and New rivers and their importance to the area, as well as the plants and animals in the area. It will also highlight environmental stewardship and ways to make a difference, including recycling and attracting birds.
“Onslow County is home to thousands of species of beautiful creatures and we’ll help you be able to see some of those,” she said.
The exhibit will also feature a taxidermied American alligator that was killed after attacking a Siberian Husky in the Mill Creek Green area near Northwoods Shopping Center.
“This is an opportunity for that creature to again educate people to what wildlife is in the area,” Whitman-Grice said of the reptile.
The center will also be home to a stuffed black bear, some foxes and a turkey.
“People don’t expect to see a wild turkey, and I think that’s just it. Often times we are surprised at the diversity of the wildlife that is here,” she said.
The exhibit was originally slated to cost $100,000; however, the Onslow County Board of Commissioners approved another $35,300 being added to the budget during its Feb. 17 meeting. According to information from the county, $26,000 has been spent on exhibit design services plus $9,300 for taxidermy services. The remaining and additional funds will be used for final fabrication and installation.
Whitman-Grice said the new facility aims to help residents and visitors alike appreciate what Onslow County has to offer.
“Ultimately the goal is for people to just have a much deeper appreciation for what beautiful natural areas are here and for the plants and animals that can be found in these green spaces, these natural areas, and sometimes in our own backyard,” she said.
The 1,206-square-foot outdoor classroom is one of Whitman-Grice’s favorite parts.
“It’s screened in so it looks like a beautiful screened-in porch but can you imagine having a classroom for children in this outdoor area learning about the environment. It’s the perfect setting to teach children about ecology and the environment,” she said.
The Environmental and Education Center, which was slated to cost $4.5 million, will be 11,722 square feet with a 464-square-foot building that will provide shared space for outdoor activities and the outdoor classroom.
According to information from the county, the land was acquired in August 2011 through a partnership with the Land Trust for America, Inc. and Ralph Huff. The 97-acre site was a sale/donation for $24,000. Its tax value is $333,500, according to the county.
Amanda Hickey is the government reporter at The Daily News. She can be reached at email@example.com.