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.