By Russ Lay on April 22, 2013
A one-of-a-kind project in which recreational and commercial fishermen will be working together is about to take shape at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s waterfront property in Manns Harbor.
Historically, the commercial and recreational fishing industries have been at odds on a variety of issues.
But with the creation of the Manns Harbor Commission by the Dare County Board of Commissioners, commercial and recreational fishermen will be working side-by-side in helping to manage the property.
When the state bought the land, it was envisioned as a dual-use facility to include boat ramps for recreational fishermen and kayakers, and slips for commercial use and educational facilities.
Manns Harbor residents and others were strong advocates for state funding to preserve the site’s historical role as a working waterfront.
Locals might remember the old property as a private marina, hotel and, at times, a sometime raucous bar.
The Wildlife Access and Marine Industry (WAMI) fund was created in 2007 and was funded from the state’s general revenue stream. The state provided $4.3 million to buy the Manns Harbor the site and make improvements.
The WAMI Fund contributed $3.9 million for the purchase, the Division of Coastal Management kicked in $335,000 and money for the improvements came from the Wildlife Resources Commission’s general fund.
Contrary to some reports, no funds from the state’s saltwater and freshwater fishing licensing fees went toward buying and improving the commercial site. The only funds used from the Coastal Recreational Fishing Licensing fund was $20,000 requested by the Wildlife Resource Commission to improve handicap access facilities on the recreational side.
At that time, the marina and other structures were in disrepair, and private investors were contemplating construction of condominiums and private marina facilities.
The first phase — construction of the recreational access area — was completed in December 2012. The improvements include three boat ramps, two floating docks, new bulkhead and shoreline docks, a gravel parking lot and space for 49 vehicle/trailer combinations and seven vehicle parking spaces.
The second phase will include the commercial fishing facilities.
WAMI had envisioned the site as a dual commercial/recreational facility from the start.
However, once the land was purchased, progress on the joint-use project was temporarily halted as WAMI searched for a way to manage a facility that would include commercial and recreational users. What set the project apart was that all previous Wildlife Resources Commission projects were only for the benefit of recreational users.
This is where the North Carolina Coastal Federation entered the picture and conceived of a plan to create a committee to help manage the commercial side. The Federation’s goal was to create a commission that would include all site users and the surrounding community.
Creation of the Manns Harbor Commission based on the Coastal Federation’s plan is what is allowing the commercial side of the project to proceed.
The newly appointed commission will manage the commercial portion of the area in conjunction with the state.
According to Ladd Bayliss of the Coastal Federation, this is the first time the Wildlife Resources Commission has constructed a facility that can be used by commercial entities. The new board, comprised of representatives from both the recreational and commercial industry, is also a first.
Residents of Manns Harbor will also serve on the commission, providing equal input and presentation for the major stakeholders and users of the facility.
The Manns Harbor Commission will manage moorage agreements, keeping the site clean and other issues.
Bayliss hopes that once the commission is up and running it can be used as an example for incorporating dual uses (both recreational and commercial) into waterfront access all along the coast.
Construction on the second phase is expected to start this summer.
The members appointed by the county for the new commission are:
Troy Outland, Sr., commercial fisherman
Troy Outland, Jr., commercial fisherman
Cyndy Holda, Manns Harbor Civic Association
Ladd Bayliss, N.C. Coastal Federation Coastal Advocate
Paul Mann, Mann Custom Boats
Jonathan Oglesby, recreational charter captain
Jeff James, recreational charter captain