June 29, 2008

N.C. Aquariums Press Release on Carolina Beach Concrete Pier

Carolina Beach Today has received an early copy of the press release that will be issued sometime this week regarding the NC Aquarium possibly building a new 1,000' concrete pier at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Again, I must offer a huge thank you to our progressive Carolina Beach elected officials and the NC Aquarium staff for looking to make this partnership a reality. It is clearly a win-win situation for all involved.

N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher and Carolina Beach in Pier Talks

Kure Beach – The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher and the town of Carolina Beach are discussing a partnership that would bring an educational ocean fishing pier, called “Aquarium Pier at Carolina Beach” to the boardwalk area.

The Carolina Beach boardwalk is the keystone of the town's recent Master Development Plan. Town Manager Tim Owens calls the opportunity for a pier returning to the boardwalk area exciting, and says it would assist Carolina Beach in implementing the Master Development Plan.

Visitors and tourism-oriented businesses have mourned the rapid vanishing of fishing piers in the last decade. A succession of hurricanes in the late 1990s wiped out many of these gathering spots, favored by vacationers and locals alike. Soaring real estate values spelled the demise of others.

Fishing piers have played an important role in the culture and history of the coast, as well as in the tourism-driven economy. Aquariums Division Director David Griffin notes that the price of oceanfront real estate makes the prospect of private investment in new piers unlikely. “The North Carolina Aquariums are uniquely positioned to address this loss,” he said. “We already have well-established educational programs and facilities within an easy drive of all the major tourist beaches.”

In addition, Aquarium staff views the proposed educational pier as another avenue to advance the Aquariums’ mission of inspiring appreciation and conservation of North Carolina’s aquatic environments. “The interest in recreational fishing in the Pleasure Island area presents a wonderful opportunity to teach conservation,” said Aquarium Director Donna Moffitt. “Getting people out into their natural surroundings is the most effective form of environmental education.”

The Aquariums’ proposed pier complex would be accessible to people with disabilities and would facilitate beach access with a bathhouse. The site will likely include a tackle shop, gift shop and concessions, all operated by the N.C. Aquarium Society.

Anglers and vacationers won’t be the only potential users. The Aquarium proposes to include a two-story multipurpose pier house, exhibits, classrooms, meeting and event rooms, accommodations for other water-based activities, and staging areas for data collection and research. Among the many programs under consideration are fishing conservation workshops, beach walks, sleepovers, science camps, school programs, kayak excursions and surfing classes. “With an Aquarium Pier at Carolina Beach, we’ll be able to bring new programs to more people,” Moffitt said.

The Aquarium Pier would follow the model of the first pier which is nearing the start of construction at Nags Head. The second pier is proposed at Emerald Isle, to be operated by the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The proposed piers will extend 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, with concrete pilings to withstand crashing waves and high winds, and timber decks to reflect traditional pier construction. The design will employ “green” building principles and stormwater treatment methods.

The Aquariums are using the state’s Waterfront Access and Marine Industry Fund and admissions revenues for construction. The piers are expected to generate sufficient revenue to support their operations. A minimum of six permanent, full-time employees would be needed to operate the Aquarium Pier at Carolina Beach.

The state’s three public aquariums are located at Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island. Administered by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the aquariums are designed to inspire appreciation and conservation of North Carolina’s aquatic environments. General information: http://www.ncaquariums.com.

N.C. Aquariums are accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). AZA and its more than 200 members work together to build North America’s largest wildlife conservation movement, by engaging and inspiring 143 million visitors and their communities to care about and take action to help protect wildlife.

Original story and artist conception of the proposed pier.
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