The facilities would include a world-class fishing pier, a pier house with an event venue, a restaurant for oceanview dining, other food vendors, covered playground, an arcade, plentiful parking, a public bathhouse, tackle shop, equipment rental, indoor and outdoor exhibits, classrooms, research areas and a wildlife rehabilitation area.
Kaplan sees locals and visitors using the area for fishing, swimming, surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, standup paddleboarding, scuba diving, bird watching, stargazing, wintertime seal and whale watching, dining, enjoying live music and just sitting and watching the sunrises and sunsets.
The educational components, he says, will include coastal studies to complement and enhance the program at Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies, bird and marine biology, wildlife rehabilitation and exhibits that would highlight the island’s commercial fishing industry and the current commercial fishing issues. And he says that there might be satellite exhibits from the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.
The ocean center, now a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, in late April closed on property on northern edge of Hatteras Village, between the Sea Gull Motel and the Hatteras Cabanas, that will be the site of the pier. The Coastal Ecology Education Center will be very close, south of the Stowe on Twelve shops.
The ocean center also has an eye on three pieces of property to the west of the pier site and on the soundside of the highway. If the board is able to purchase that property, it will be used for walking, launching kayaks and canoes, a skate park and the educational component of the center, including a nature education and research center, classrooms and environmental education exhibits.
Since the first of the year, Kaplan has been talking with islanders, community leaders, politicians and business owners to tell them about the ocean center and secure their support and input.
He’s built a web site for the ocean center and you can follow its progress on Facebook and Twitter.
He’s also been lining up possible grants and loans and meeting with local, state, and federal agencies to get the zoning and permits that will be needed to the ocean center built.
Ocean center representatives in February met with state agencies at the Washington, office of the Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources to talk about the permitting that will be necessary for the pier and pier house.
“The meeting was well attended,” Kaplan said, “and the overall consensus was that it is a worthy project. They raised no red flags and said to keep on moving forward.”
Plans are already underway for an Environmental Assessment and wetland delineation for the properties involved.
Kaplan has been working with the National Park Service since last year, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore superintendent Mike Murray has said that he is supportive of the project.
Dare County commissioners have also been supportive of the center. Though they have not promised financial support, they promised support in other ways, such as getting the permits and zoning changes that will be needed.
In addition, he met with the Dare County Tourism Board to talk about possible grants. Kaplan is seeking $655,000 from the restricted fund and $277,500 from green spaces fund to help pay for the anchor properties.
He said he got no promises but that “nobody laughed, no one threw me out of the room.”
And, in March, Kaplan got the support of the board of directors of the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative to seek a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant.
He has also been researching foundations, and, so far, he says he has been told that the Nora Roberts Foundation will be supporting the center, though he doesn’t know at what level. The popular novelist owns three houses in Frisco.
“We have momentum and credibility,” Kaplan said, and next up on his list is designing the pier house. He’s working with an architect and he wants a building that will blend in with the character and atmosphere of Hatteras village.
The pier house, he says, has been limited by CAMA to 10,000 square feet – a 5,000 square foot footprint and no more than two stories.
Kaplan sees the pier house providing a large event space for such things as wedding receptions and parties, a casual sit-down restaurant, some walk-up food concessions and a tackle shop.