Nags Head beach walkover project completed just in time for summer season

Published 4:47 pm Monday, July 12, 2021

A newly-constructed walkover was completed just before the onset of the summer season in the Town of Nags Head. The 130-ft. pedestrian walkover now resides at the Admiral Street beach access, completed by Carolina Marine Structures, Inc. and Weather-Tek Construction and Restoration.

David Ryan, town engineer, explained that this particular project was not originally part of the capital improvement project work plan for the last year. “It came up last fall,” he said. “There was a conflict between pedestrian traffic and vehicle crossover at that location.” Admiral Street in Nags Head is located at the northern end of town and serves as a primary beach access point for pedestrians as well as formerly serving as a drive over for vehicles in the off season.

Seeing this as a major concern after hearing from Nags Head residents, the board of commissioners took quick action. “The board saw the problem and approved funds to construct the crossover to minimize conflicts,” stated Ryan. Board approval of the project occurred in spring of this year.

The town set the project out for bids and received one bid back from Carolina Marine Structures, who completed the walkover from start to finish within the time span of one month. The crews started on May 5 and finished right at the start of June. Matthew Murphy, operations manager for Carolina Marine Structures, said projects of this caliber can take anywhere from one month to six months.

Murphy explained that major complications with projects involving beach sediment are always a possibility. “You have to make sure you don’t disrupt the main structure of the dune that you’re working on,” he noted. “It’s like walking a tightrope with getting equipment to and from the site and not disrupting the dune line or strategically planted vegetation. We have to keep all of that in mind while being environmentally conscious.”

Carolina Marine Structures is a heavy civil marine company specializing in marine construction. They take on projects all along the coast, from South Carolina up through Maryland. Their main area of focus ranges from Richmond, Virginia to the Outer Banks.

Typically, the company works hand in hand with CAMA, town engineers and town inspectors to ensure regulations are met. In order to safely maintain the condition of the existing dunes, walkovers cannot be constructed by “simply bulldozing your way through.” Murphy said it takes a lot of knowledge and years of experience to complete such projects like the new walkover at Admiral Street.

“It’s kind of like building Legos,” he started. “We have to create a stable foundation like a house, driving pilings into sand or base of what we’re working and then everything is built up from there.” Murphy said his crew decided to use round pilings for this walkover, being that the shape would create a tighter and more stable foundation to build off of.

Unlike other rural areas around the United States, the Outer Banks in unique in its lot coverage and composition. Murphy and his team work with many times with “fluid sand dunes” and have to overcome the battle that is a moving foundation.

“Sand is always moving based on if we have hurricanes, nor’easters, different wind directions, flooding… taking all of that into consideration, we come up with the proper depth of piles to be installed and in return, make sure the structure up in air is stable and has longevity.”

Working in tandem with the town engineer, Murphy and his team use their system of levels and lasers along with the town plans to create a leveled deck structure, stairs and railings. The finished product is only seen after four 5-day work weeks consisting of 10-hour work days. Expertise for this project came from not only Carolina Marine Structures and the town engineer, but Weather-Tek Construction and Restoration as well.

“They [Weather-Tek] came with lot of expertise on the decking and framing,” said Murphy. “We combined our marine construction expertise with their decking and framing expertise to make this happen.”

“We moved forward rapidly and construction went relatively well for it being a such a short period of time and window given to have that structure constructed,” said Ryan.

Carolina Marine Structures has worked on several projects on the Outer Banks, including the outfalls at Ramp 1, constructing the Wright Memorial Bridge, the Avalon Pier addition and much more.

Working in and around so much water means using specialized equipment, or “amphibious equipment.” “We create a lot of own equipment,” said Murphy. “We can’t go buy our equipment from a supplier or distributor.” He also noted that the crew is made up of a very diverse team of mechanics and welders who can modify machinery needed to get the job done. Having the “right tools for the job” is imperative.

Ryan said that the town is now looking into improving the bathhouse located at Epstein Street in Nags Head. “We are looking at doing something similar to the Bonnet Street bathhouse remodel, where we had and older facility, used by a lot of the summertime tourists as well as local residents. We are trying to be a little bit proactive to see what we can do to replace older facilities and freshen them up.” Ryan noted that the goal would be to incorporate as many different modern elements into the bathhouse as possible to improve the overall structure while adding to it.

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