Residents react to Oak Island Pier demolition and construction: 'Let's get it done'

Residents react to Oak Island Pier demolition and construction: 'Let's get it done'
The new pier will have a traditional look and feel despite using modern construction techniques, according to Kelly. "Handrails, lights, benches, everything just like it was before.” (SOURCE: WECT)
The new pier will have a traditional look and feel despite using modern construction techniques, according to Kelly. "Handrails, lights, benches, everything just like it was before.” (SOURCE: WECT)

OAK ISLAND, NC (WECT) - The Oak Island Pier will be demolished and rebuilt starting in early February at a cost of about $2 million. It is expected to reopen to the public in April or May 2019, according to Town Manager David Kelly.

"We want to bring the pier back to the town," said Kelly.

Hurricane Matthew's strong waves heavily damaged the oceanside landmark in 2016, forcing the Town of Oak Island to deem the pier "unfit for human occupancy" and close it to public access.

"It was sad to see it sit here and keep waiting," said Oak Island resident Jerry Soderberg.

"Get it done. Since we have the pier, let's get it done," said Jim McIntosh, another resident who first set foot on the pier in 1952 as a teenager.

But action is now on the horizon after months of planning.

"Just now we have received the permits," said Kelly. "We applied for things back in May, so it took a while."

At least five agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Services, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Coastal Area Management Act, had to individually approve the pier construction plan and issue permits.

"Now that we have these permits, we can move forward," said Kelly.

About $1.5 million for the pier construction comes from the Golden LEAF Foundation, which uses money from tobacco lawsuit settlements.

The new pier will be constructed in two phases because crews must stop construction April through November to avoid turtle nesting season.

Kelly said engineers worked to design a cost-efficient yet durable pier made from wood.

"We're looking at trying to get a longer lifespan out of the pier," said Kelly, referring to the use of wave action boards on walkways, stronger handrail design, and the wooden decks tied into the pilings. "The wooden pier was something we could afford. The concrete was just too expensive for us."

The new pier will have a traditional look and feel despite using modern construction techniques, according to Kelly. "Handrails, lights, benches, everything just like it was before."

"It's just a neat way to meet people from all over the country, all over the world," said McIntosh. "The beach is my place. If you're ever having any problems or need to contemplate, the pier."

The leasing permit for the pier, restaurant, and shop will expire March 31, and the town council is working to decide how permitting will be handled afterward, said Kelly.

The current leaseholder, A.C. Thomas Jr., declined to comment for this story when asked for an interview.

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