After months of battering storms, followed by lengthy repairs and public speculation on when – and even if – the Rodanthe Pier would reopen for the season, the word is out that the pier will be welcoming anglers once again starting Easter weekend.
The pier has had a long history of brushes with storms, but this past fall and winter have been especially brutal, with a section of the pier being damaged — and later unceremoniously removed by heavy seas — during two major weather events.
In October, after two weeks of northeast winds and the offshore passing of Hurricane Joaquin, the middle section of the pier was badly damaged, and then during a January northeaster, more than 100 feet of the pier broke off – an unfortunate event that occurred right before construction crews were to start repairing the original October damage.
Repairs were put back on the agenda for February, but once again, the local weather threw a wrench in the works, and the construction had pause on multiple occasions as more late-winter storms rolled through the area.
But the good news is that the construction crew that’s been handling the project — LSI Marine Construction from Powells Point – has been rolling along for the past couple of weeks, and as the last pilings are being put in, the anglers who love to fish from the pier are happily anticipating its grand reopening for the 2016 season on Saturday, March 26.
“There are a couple more pilings to put in that will be done in the next two weeks, and all repairs should be finished in the next two weeks as well,” says one of the pier owners, Terry Plumbee.
As a result of the near-complete renovation, the pier will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday, — March 26-28 –and then full-time from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. until the pier lights are repaired and night fishing can begin.
The road to recovery has been a long one – with clearly a lot of obstacles along the way – but it has been helped along by an outpouring of community support.
Most long-term vacationers and tri-village locals happily remember going to the pier with their parents or grandparents in the 1980s or earlier, and as such, the effort to get the pier repaired and re-opened was definitely a community endeavor.
A GoFundMe page that was established to help get the pier back up and running has already raised more than $4,000 from community members and visitors alike, and as more raffles are announced, this number is (hopefully) expected to grow.
In fact, a current raffle is underway to help raise additional funds, with a lot of prizes that will grab anglers’ attention. The grand prize is a custom made spinning rod by Jim Focht of Rodanthe Rods with an Okuma Ceymar 55 spinning reel, the second prize is a full-season pier pass, and the third prize is a weekly pass for a family of four. There are also a handful of locally acclaimed books — a copy of “Gull Island” by Elvin Hooper and a copy of “Got ‘Em On” by Clyde Coltrain — that are up for grabs as well.
The drawing is scheduled for Memorial Day, and information on the current raffle can be found on the pier’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RodanthePier/.
“We really appreciate everything from all the people who love the Rodanthe Pier,” says Plumbee of the massive response. “It will go a long way towards helping repair the pier.”
In island fishing circles, the re-opening of the pier is certainly cause for celebration, and local bait and tackle shops have been happy to pass along the good news to customers that, yes, the pier will rise again.
“It’s definitely talked about in the tackle shop,” says Blake O’Sullivan of Hatteras Jack in Rodanthe – one of the closest bait and tackle shops to the pier. “I get asked about the pier by everyone coming in, and everyone is wondering if it’s going to open again.”
“[The customers are] definitely excited about it opening, and are even surprised when they find out it’s opening soon,” he adds. “We’ve lost a portion of the pier, but everyone is really positive about it, and we’ll take what we can get.”
Indeed, frequent visitors who have been fishing off the Rodanthe Pier for years may notice a difference in size.
Though the pier extended for 700 to 800 feet in recent years, the newly renovated pier will reopen at a slightly shorter stature and will measure around 500 feet long.
Even so, the pier will still hover over waters that are roughly 20 feet deep, and as the waters heat up, the first wave of anglers will have a good opportunity to catch those blow toads, sea mullets, and puppy drum.
Plans are in the works to upgrade the pier in the years to come, too.
In fact, a restaurant may be added to the pier as well, as early as 2017.
“If we can get past repairing the pier every year, that’s the next step – to have some kind of restaurant added to the pier house,” says Plumbee.
The prospect of a longer pier is also still on the table.
“We will probably expand in the years to come, but we have to figure out if it’s safe to do it,” says Plumbee. “We had built it out to 700 feet and it didn’t last but a couple years because of the way the sand shifts, so we have to determine if it’s even safe to go that far anymore.”
“We would like to have it back to 700 or 800 feet in the future, though,” he adds.
In the meantime, Tri-Village residents and visiting anglers will have their beachside icon back – a welcome happy ending to a story that looked like it might not ever come to fruition.
“I’m really happy to be open again,” says Terry. “We have a lot of friends who come down to see us every year and we’re looking forward to seeing them. I’m excited to have part of the pier back.”