Time Well Spent on a Pier

By Kelly Dulka

While vacationing in Nags Head, NC, I became curious about the pier just a few blocks down the beach and had heard it had an environmental education center, so I decided to check it out.

Jennette’s Pier originally opened in 1939, and changed fishing on the Outer Banks forever.  For more than 60 years, the pier was repaired or rebuilt from time to time due to hurricanes and nor’easters. The NC Aquarium Society bought the pier to develop it into an educational facility. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel knocked down about 540 feet (over half) of the pier, practically shutting down an Outer Banks institution. It then became time to rethink the fishing pier concept, with the aquarium taking the lead to rebuild Jennette’s as an all-concrete, 1,000-foot-long, educational ocean pier.

The new pier opened in 2011, and is a fascinating place to visit. Aside from all of the cool displays inside the educational center (like floor to ceiling aquariums), I was happy to learn that the pier was LEED certified by the US Green Building Council. This meant that “green” technology was everywhere you looked, and even in places you couldn’t see.

First off and probably most noticeable are the three wind turbines that rise 90 feet above the pier and provide over half of the energy for the pier.  Some solar cells convert sunlight into electricity, which is then stored to provide the power necessary for the pier’s lights at night. The building is heated and cooled by a geothermal HVAC system.

Collected rainwater provides water for irrigation and cleaning the deck and facility vehicles, and there is an on-site waste water treatment facility providing reclaimed water to the pier. These features are projected to reduce water use by up to 80%.

Inside the pier building, educational classes are offered year round. School groups can learn about ocean and marine life, and in the summer, camps are offered. If I hadn’t already realized this wasn’t your ordinary fishing pier, I could tell once I ventured out of the center.  It was very “user friendly” with plenty of benches for seating, tables for cleaning your “catch of the day,” and informational displays about fishing regulations and size requirements. Best of all, it was clean (and not smelly at all, I might add!) Plenty of trash and recycling receptacles, and there were even bins for recycling fishing line!

On the day I visited, there were many people visiting the pier, young, old, sportsmen, and sightseers. It was clear to me that the time I spent exploring was well worth it, and certainly worth spending more time visiting again.

About the author: Kelly Dulka has worked for EPA for many years. She currently works in the Office of Web Communications at EPA Headquarters.