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Piers of the Outer Banks: Jennette’s Pier

In the early 1930s, there was an old shipwreck in Kill Devil Hills and the Jennette brothers noticed that people were climbing on top of it to fish. The wheels started to turn and they realized that the community was in need of a better solution. So, in 1939 the family opened the Outer Banks’ very first pier to the public: Jennette’s Pier.

The Jennette family owned the pier for decades as it was destroyed and rebuilt a number of times due to wood deterioration and storms. In 2001, the property came close to being sold to a developer. Word got out and in an effort to save the historically significant and community-loved pier, the state took it over, placing the pier under the umbrella of the Aquarium Society. The original plan was for the pier to serve as a research outpost for the aquarium – collecting fish and ocean water – but it quickly became clear that Jennette’s Pier could function as its own entity and it was placed under the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

But in September of 2003 Hurricane Isabel swept through the Outer Banks and changed Jennette’s Pier forever. The storm completely wiped out the pier, leaving only the pier house. The state then began imagining a massive reconstruction project to accomplish multiple goals: to construct a pier that could withstand a large category 3 hurricane; to build a pier house that could offer educational programs and classes for the community as well as host wedding receptions; and to make the entire facility environmentally efficient.

Summer Stevens photo

In 2009 the state broke ground on a 24-month, $25 million dollar project to accomplish these goals. The result was a 1,000-foot concrete pier with wind turbines; and a new two-story pier house with event rooms and a large banquet hall, aquariums and a gift shop; a geothermal heating and cooling system that services the entire building; and an innovative closed-system wastewater treatment system. Jennette’s Pier was designed with other conservation efforts, including passive solar designs (for example, specific porch roof dimensions and window height to reduce heating and cooling needs), pervious pavers in the parking lot to assist with storm water retention and air hand dryers in the restrooms.

But to the average fisherman, it’s just a great place to fish.

“People have fished here with their families for generations,” said the pier’s communications manager Daryl Law. The pier offers the popular “Family Fishing,” which offers everything needed to learn how to catch fish – two hours of instruction, reels and rods and bait and tackle. The “Fishing 101”-style class is offered weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m. all summer long; registration is recommended. The cost is $14 for adults and $7 for children.

Like all piers in the Outer Banks, fishing fees includes a blanket license, which means anglers do not need to acquire an additional fishing license when fishing off the pier. Individual or family fishing passes can be purchased for three days, seven days or one year. More information is available online. Those just wanting to stroll the 1,000-foot pier can pay the walk-on rate of $2 for adults, $1 for children and free for North Carolina Aquarium members. Entrance to the pier house’s aquariums and interactive science-based displays are free for everyone.

Jennette’s Pier has been a popular destination for tens of thousands of school students who come to learn about coastal environments, the beach and the ocean. “Busloads of students come out here and catch their first fish,” said Law. “They love it.”

Throughout the year, Jennette’s Pier provides space for community events like the Eastern Surfing Association Championships. The Mid-Atlantic Regionals were held April 30 to May 2, and Easterns tournament is scheduled for September 19-25. The popular Skim Jam will be July 17-18.

Jennette’s Pier will host a blood drive July 21 from 1-6 p.m.

May through October, the pier is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.ncaquariums.com/jennettes-pier.

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