The Port Royal Sound Foundation's Maritime Center doesn't officially open until Saturday, but that hasn't stopped people -- or wildlife -- from stopping by for a peek.
On Thursday afternoon, that included an egret that wandered around the front door before checking out the back dock where a tiger shark model was getting final touch-up of paint.
"We want to be that kind of place where we are bringing everyone together and helping them build an appreciation for the water," foundation director Jody Hayward said.
The $2 million center has been about three years in the making. Funding has come mostly from contributions and in-kind donations, as well as local accommodation tax grants.
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The center, which is in the former Lemon Island Marina, has been drastically remodeled to include a main exhibit room, as well as rooms for rotating exhibits, "touch tanks" with live animals and an oyster/ecology room.
Models of Carolina Snowball, the albino dolphin of Beaufort County, and Sonny Boy, her son, hang in the entryway.
Hayward, gesturing out the window toward the Chechessee River, said her favorite exhibit is Port Royal Sound itself.
"We want to protect it, but we want you to enjoy it. We want people to learn how to throw a cast net or the best time to catch cobia or what size red drum (fish) you can keep," she said.
The Maritime Center and its exhibits are intended to tie the history and ecology of the sound with the ever-present tides that have shaped both, said Jan Spoerri, president of Jan Spoerri & Co., which is working with the foundation to set up the exhibits.
"The tide is what ties everything together," he said.
The Maritime Center has exhibits ranging from nature and historical photos, to models of aquatic animals, to tanks with live animals.
During your visit:
The center is accessible by both car and boat.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.