Oak Islanders welcomed the reopening of the town’s pier last Wednesday, arriving by the hundreds to admire the 850-foot structure that towers 27 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.
The crowd got a look at an almost-finished pier, a remodeled restaurant and coffee shop and the space that will soon be a town-operated tackle shop.
Shrimp breaking the surface gave the calm greenish water a bright shimmer, while baitfish schooled and leapt. Scores of cabbage jellies lingered past the surf zone as trawlers pulled their nets and anglers converged on king mackerels about a mile offshore. Gulls and pelicans sailed easily by, further setting a serene, sunny scene with just enough breeze to keep insects away.
It was a picture-perfect day for a low-key, long-awaited celebration.
Mayor Cin Brochure thanked the town staff, representatives from agencies that provided grants, area legislators and others who made the $2.7-million project possible.
Engineer E.B. Pannkuk of Andrews Consulting Engineers spoke to some of the features designed to make the pier stronger, including the reinforced fiberglass grating that runs along the center, flanked by wooden planking. The grating will allow high waves to pass through without overly stressing the structure, he said.
“It’ll last a lot longer,” he said.
Andrew Law of T.D. Eure Marine Construction thanked members of the community for their patience during building.
Austin Alphonso and his family will operate the sit-down restaurant and coffee shop, expected to open by the end of the month. He said he appreciated the support of Oak Island residents.
“We will offer great food at a reasonable price,” Alphonso said. “I’m from here and getting this far means a lot to me.”
The pier remains open for observation as construction continues on the most-seaward fishing T. Fishing will be allowed beginning July 2, after the town’s Beach Day celebration and fireworks at the pier on July 1.
The old pier was closed in March 2017 after years of wear and tear and damage from three hurricanes. The town is working on a separate parking lot across Ocean Drive, expected to open early in the season.