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The last hurrah for the Frisco Pier

Friday 17 June 2016 at 5:07 pm.

It's been a long time in coming, but it now appears certain that this summer will be the last hurrah for the Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier in Frisco, aka the Frisco Pier, a beloved community landmark since it was built in 1962.

Fans of the historic old wooden structure can still enjoy hanging around what's left of the pier through the summer and into the early fall, but come later this year, man will finally accomplish something Mother Nature has been unable to do -- take it down.

With every northeaster or hurricane passing close by Hatteras -- or even way offshore -- a little more of the Frisco Pier has fallen into the ocean, and pilings and planks have been washed up on shore, sometimes over the dunes and right onto Highway 12.

Although no one wanted it to end this way, the National Park Service, which has owned the pier since 2013, will finally demolish it, probably beginning in late fall.

John Kowlok, chief of maintenance for the Cape  Hatteras National Seashore, says that the demolition has been funded and that the job will be put out for bids this summer.

'We plan to start the contract late this fall to minimize the impacts to both the fall beach visitors and the wildlife," Kowlok said this week.

The seashore has already completed an underwater dive survey of the pier, which revealed that there are a total of 263 pilings that need to come out, including 139 that are underwater.  The contractor will be required to take down the pilings, planking, and the pier house.

"The contract will have a period of performance of 120 days," Kowlok said, "but we do not expect the actual project to take that long. The period of performance allows the contractor time to schedule, obtain whatever materials and/or equipment are needed, and mobilize on the site."

He said seashore officials estimate that the demolition will be completed in 30 to 60 days.

Ironically, some pier fans have just started a social media petition to save the pier.

David Hallac, the seashore's superintendent, said he has received some phone calls about repairing and preserving the pier.

"We do respect and appreciate the memories and the pier's value to the community," Hallac said this week. "But, based on its current condition, it's just not feasible to repair it."

The pier's previous owners, Tod and Angie Gaskill, struggled to save the pier during the decade they owned it before they finally sold out to the Park Service, an effort that Tod said in an interview three years ago left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Tod Gaskill was born on Hatteras Island about the time the pier was built and was raised here. He said he’s not a fisherman and had never fished off the pier, but he recognized its importance as a cultural landmark, tourist attraction, and economic boon.

In 2003, after the pier was damaged by Hurricane Isabel, Gaskill bought it to try to save it.

“It was not to line my pockets,” Gaskill says.  “I knew the pier was not a money-making operation.”

He says he spent $400,000 to buy the pier and repair it.  “Not a soul put anything in it but me.”

“I never saw one dime out of the pier,” he added.

But the old wooden pier just kept getting battered by storms and parts of it fell into the ocean. Gaskill also said that the effort to save it was hampered by a load of bad pilings that was delivered to him and that quickly failed.

The last year that the pier was open for the season was 2008. By the next year, the structure needed extensive repairs, and the economy on the island -- along with the rest of the country -- was tanking in a recession.

Gaskill, owner of Top Dollar Construction, moved part-time to Galveston, Texas, to find work.  Angie stayed here to try to get the pier reopened.

By then, the Park Service was having the pier inspected by an engineering firm to see if it was even safe to open it to the public. Though the Gaskills owned the pier business, they operated it under a concession contract with the National Park Service.

Gaskill said in 2013 that he approached the Park Service for help in finding the money to rehabilitate the structure. At first, he says, the Park Service was encouraging.

“They told me, ‘We want the pier…We know it’s important to the island and its people.’”

However, nothing worked out, in large part because the pier was a privately owned business, not eligible for some grants and public monies, according to park officials at the time.

Gaskill said he looked for help from the county and the business community. About the same time, the state was spending $25 million to replace the old wooden Jennette's Pier in Nags Head with a new concrete structure. Gaskill said he didn't understand why an arrangement could not be made to get some public money to help the Frisco Pier.

“At one point,” he said, “three million could have built a nice pier there.”

He said he offered to relinquish his ownership to anyone who was willing to get the pier back up and running. Ultimately, he said in a 2012 interview, that he would like to see the pier redone and turned over to the county or the state, but realistically, he would consider any viable offer or plan.

“The public needed to get behind it,” he said, “but they never did.”

Darrell Echols, who was deputy superintendent of the seashore in 2013, said the Park Service did all it could to try to help find financing and keep the pier in place.

However, nothing worked out, and eventually the Gaskills' concession contract ran out.  Since only pieces of the pier were still standing, they couldn’t reopen it.

“I think it’s a raw deal for Hatteras Island,” Tod Gaskill said after the 2013 sale. “It’s a landmark for the island, and I thought it should stay there.”

Gaskill said he had done all he could to get the Park Service to help rehabilitate the pier or to get the community interested in forming a non-profit to take it over.

Nothing worked, and, although he said at the time that he was not “mad at anyone,” he also said that he felt mistreated by the seashore officials.

“The Park Service has been playing me hard for eight years,” Gaskill said back then.

In the end, he adds, “They shoved me in a corner and said sell or we’ll see you in litigation…They were going to take it from me anyway.”

In September 2013, the Gaskills reached an agreement with the National Park Service to sell their interests in the pier, the pier house, the parking lot, and the Cape Hatteras Pier Drive, the road from Highway 12 to the parking lot.  Gaskill said the sale price was $160,000, up from the $59,000 he said he was first offered.

“It’s just a sad thing that people never really did rally around it,” Gaskill said back then.

However, even when the community does rally around one of the old wooden piers, it's not easy to keep them safe and repaired, as the owners of the Rodanthe Pier have found out as that northern Hatteras icon gets beat up in coastal storms.  The last one -- a northeaster over the winter -- took 500 feet off the end.

Fans of the Rodanthe Pier have started several Go Fund Me pages, and the owners have continued to patch it together.

The Avon Pier has fared somewhat better in storms.  The pier property was purchased in 2014 by Koru Village, which is owned by Joe Thompson. It is also operated under a concession contract with the National Park Service.

And, up and down, the North Carolina coast, the old wooden piers are a threatened species -- their old wooden pilings and planks are giving in to the constant pounding by ocean storms and the high price to repair or replace them.

The demolition of the Frisco Pier will be a big loss for southern Hatteras Island.

Even in its current state of disrepair, the old pier is still a people magnet. Besides the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the "space ship" in Frisco, it is probably the most photographed site on the island.

After each storm passes by, folks are amazed by the steadfast remaining pilings, which just seem to refuse to give up to the battering surf. But, at this point, the pier is a public safety hazard that needs to come down. If it does fall of its own accord in a big enough storm, the remaining pilings will become battering rams.

Meanwhile, there's still time to spend a lazy summer afternoon or perhaps a breezy fall day hanging out at the Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier in Frisco.

For sure, the pier's better days will live on in the memory of many Hatteras islanders and visitors.

RELATED ARTICLES

Future of the Frisco Pier is still uncertain  - June 4, 2012

Farewell to the Frisco Pier?  - Sept. 2, 2010

Frisco Pier unlikely to open this season  - May 28, 2010

Owners explore opening part of the Frisco Pier this summer -  April 23, 2010

The future of the Frisco Pier is unclear   - July 24, 2009

26 comments

Woodyobx

It’s a shame that nps has anything to,do,or,say with these piers.

Woodyobx - 17-06-’16 19:04
AnonVisitor

A lot of us feel mistreated by seashore officials. They could have done something but they were having too much fun implementing thier new tree hugger seashore rules and regulations.

AnonVisitor - 18-06-’16 06:46
Roberto gaidos

Why r u so negative. The pier is being standing since the 70s and Has weathered MANY storms and hurricanes. And after the storms All work was done to repair and maintance perform to park service standards. Only since the pier change owners (Gaskill) has become dilapidated and left in a state of disrepair
By the way

Roberto gaidos - 18-06-’16 13:35
Nulokal

If not for the meddling NPS we’d have several profitable piers up and down Hatteras

Nulokal - 18-06-’16 13:41
Kathy

Look up “The Wreck of the Frisco Pier” on YouTube. Written by a group of friends while on vacation

Kathy - 18-06-’16 14:41
FKAA

If it weren’t for the meddling NPS we could have McMansions all the way to Cape Point.

FKAA - 18-06-’16 22:38
Dave H

It’s a shame to see such a local icon falling by the wayside. My first memories of the island,and when I fell in love with Hatteras were on that pier with my late father in the 1960’s. I agree that the NPS’s meddling and micromanagement may have done much to make it difficult if not impossible for the Gaskills to rebuild. What’s also unfortunate is that NPS will, in true government fashion, spend more to tear the pier down than it would cost a private entity to rebuild it absent NPS interference!

Dave H - 19-06-’16 08:00
diver531

Wow …kinda harsh picking on the gaskils !! Mother nature and time took it’s toll and the gaskill’s pockets ran outta cash . Gotta agree Fkaa …would be looking a lot like duck and corolla !

diver531 - 19-06-’16 09:40
johnbull

What a shame. I understand the economics and money angle, but it was a beautiful pier, and the ocean from there was breathtaking.

johnbull - 19-06-’16 21:02
jerry grubb

Worked as a ranger for 30 years. NPS MANAGEMENT plan in operation. CHANGE PEOPLES CULTURE, HERD THEM INTO AREAS THEY WANT YOU TO USE. CLOSE ALL ACCESS EXCEPT WHAT THE NPS WANTS. THE REASON FOR VISITOR CENTERS AND DAY USE AREAS. THEY HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR OBAMA AND THE REST OF THE PRESIDENTS TO CREATE AND FUND NEW PARKS BUT NOT REPAIR AND MAINTAIN THE PARKS WE HAVE NOW. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION AT ITS BEST. JUST LIKE THIS POST HAS TO BE APPROVED BY THE GOVERNMENT BEFORE IT IS POSTED.

jerry grubb - 20-06-’16 11:10
diver531

I know Frisco needs sand and has other worries but why not ask for a smaller less gaudy pier similar in construction to Jennette’s ? Maybe work into the NPS budget every couple of years another pier fix / rebuild and work their way up and down the coast of NC . Not a huge money maker BUT a HUGE draw for those towns .

diver531 - 21-06-’16 09:56
guest

Jerry Grubb,
This 100 year experiment has had its ups and downs, but the bottom line is that the parks are still keeping our nation’s most spectacular land from being developed. That alone is a giant kudo for the federal government, the National Park Service and the American people. Thank you for your service and your hard work. You have made an important difference.

guest - 21-06-’16 11:56
TwentyPSI

The pier house and deck aren’t of any use. But the parking lot and pilings are. The parking lot supports a popular day use area. The pilings create a wave break for surfing and a slough that holds speckled trout and puppy drum in the fall. Leave the parking lot and some of the pilings!

TwentyPSI - 22-06-’16 10:00
Chris d

The pier was the best place around to park quickly and check out the surf. You can bet there will be no more parking at the pier. I will sorely miss it! It’s just not up to the high standards of a government parking lot.

Chris d - 24-06-’16 15:31
Chuck Allison

And so goes one of the finest surf spots on the entire east coast……what a loss, to all the water people.

Chuck Allison - 25-06-’16 20:03
Guy Thomas

I“M STILL not afraid to rattle a few chains, get someones dander up, pluck some nerves, be a pest, get a few feathers ruffled, get someone’s bristles up or even raise a few hackles or become or create a nuisance and make some noise! Hell, I’m even willing to piss a few people off with this process, But I need YOUR HELP!
Although I myself am irrelevant, I live in another State some 300 miles away from my Frisco Pier Home and I want no credit whatsoever for this process, I myself am paying for these “boosts” out of my own pocket. This goal means that much to me that I would spend this much money on what I consider to be such a worthy goal. It, “I” consider it my contribution to mankind and for the good, happiness and well being of everyone who has ever had the need for some “release” in one’s life,…there are so few places in this world where we can escape, collapse, relax and just…….. exhale!
Most buildings are saved and restored and protected are because they once were owned by someone in particular who was important in some way. Achieved something, created something or in some other way impacted a given country or place for whatever reason, but yet, … they are still just buildings which in themselves, by themselves are merely constructions (building materials!),…The Frisco Pier has Impacted in a positive way tens of thousands over the years by raising their spirits, gave them sunshine on a bad day and even many good ones, made them feel at one with nature, or even fed them with the fresh catch of the day….. and yet,it is still just a building,….. why now would an Institution. namingly , The National Park Service want or desire to destroy or tear down such a Historical Landmark, It has stood for so much good for so many for over Half a Century for the good of the PEOPLE, and not only that but has enriched the individual lives in some way of every single person who ever visited her,…. the National Park Service evidently isn’t thinking of the Positive impact this “building” has had for the tens of thousands if not millions over the years that this “building” has achieved or the good that it has done for not only the state of North Carolina, but for all the other states and peoples that have come to visit and enjoy her….. The Frisco Pier has earned her right to stand amongst the buildings that need to be preserved for future generations for a great many reasons, each individual can think of his own reason where the Frisco Pier has in his own way earned the right to be saved.
You know, considering how picky and persnickety the government is in cleaning up a given place to erase it from existence and off the map, just using common sense and considering today’s expensive requirements I would suspect that the removal and requirement to fully erase the fact that the Frisco Pier was ever existed ( as projected ) would probably come reasonably close to the cost to just restore what’s there,… Please take that money, and apply it to restoration rather than destruction!…. It’s the right thing to do!
I’ll continue this fight. It is not beyond rebuilding, even if the entire pier part needed to be replaced it would still be worth restoring. The truth be told these IMPROVEMENTS are a regular maintenance and have to be done from time to time anyway for safety reasons, saying its beyond fixing is a cop out, If they had simply done it in a timely manor in the first place instead of dragging their legs like a lame dog it would have been done, should have been done years ago,..The Piers dilapidation is due to the Governments simple lack of interest in maintaining what they procured by (not so considerate means) there is no honor in this, there is no excuse for this besides their total lack of interest and unwillingness to maintain what they ‘Invested in and procured’,…. Its their own damn fault! and was done intentionally. They allowed it to fade into disrepair. I can’t believe something as simple as preserving this tiny speck for the PEOPLE,.. all the money the government takes from its people and isn’t willing to give anything back. It’s supposed to be, Of the People, By the people and FOR the people !
441
I’m doing everything I myself can to attempt to preserve the The Frisco Pier for future generations. The Frisco Pier has been a place of dreams, memories and a true outlet for rest and relaxation for countless people for half a century. Please join the fight and not allow this innocent place of countless memories to be condemned to death for being old, help us demand a “stay of execution” by its condemners DEMAND its Reprieve !
Please share and sign this petition! And tweet Sally Jewell, United States Secretary of the Interior on “Twitter”, to “ SAVE THE FRISCO PIER! “ Thank You !

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/841/645/2.. Guy Thomas - 26-06-’16 08:09
Guy Thomas

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION TO HELP SAVE AND PRESERVE THE FRISCO PIER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/841/645/2..

Guy Thomas - 26-06-’16 08:17
linda mercer

the pier was part of the landscape and of enjoyment to many-sad to see it in this condition and about to go-I think a lot of the wealthy property owners did not want the “riff-raff“hanging out on and around the pier and on the beaches-yes,the disrespect for the beach(trash etc.)was uncalled for but so were all the humongous beach homes built blocking the scenery for which the island was known for-we have returned for over 25 years,the last few have been sad to see-business gone,locals hurting but more homes on the way-rentals are so high now we must only come down in the off season-the beaches washing away and no driving because of wildlife(which I love but they have much more of the island than the people)haven’t seen cape point for a very long time-last fall our rental house sat in flood waters on robin lane,it did not recede all week,rental company did not care that sewage was leaking into the water,paid 50.00 to beach drive but it opened on day before we left-a pier would’ve been nice !-hope to come back again but may move on,can’t afford to stay-oh,the nudists on northern ocracoke are a nuisance and the nudist beaches should be marked,have a great picture but can’t share it !!!-thank you locals for many wonderful years and memories,thanks gaskill family !!

linda mercer - 26-06-’16 20:45
bbc

The big issue is money for maintenance and repair. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Everyone can point fingers at everyone else but the last hurrah for the pier was the last time it had major damage to it. I’d love to see it replaced with a nice concrete pier but it’ll never happen.

bbc - 27-06-’16 14:18
Guy Thomas

The Frisco Pier has survived quite well as a “wooden” Pier for over 50 years and would do just fine if it were repaired, “Me” personally wouldn’t ask or impose the concept that the State or Local government, or even the Federal Government fork out millions of dollar’s to erect a concrete mega structure. My hopes are simple, repair whats there , keep it Original,…and allow the memories to flourish and flow again.

Guy Thomas - 28-06-’16 05:31
Ricky

Sorry Chuck, the pier quit breaking decades ago. Like most of the beaches down Frisco way, it’s just a long doubled up close out. Get a jet ticket mate….

Ricky - 28-06-’16 20:24
diver531

Guy …. a new pier doesn’t haveta be a mega pier … simplistic and concrete . In the sense of imposing …long term I think it’s a better deal to just rebuild it and be done instead having to go back to the money well and begging for whatever they throw each and everytime a storm comes through . Got where your coming from though , just posing the other side of the coin .

diver531 - 29-06-’16 10:35
Guy Thomas

My goal is the Salvation of the Pier, however they decide to do it is indeed up to them, my goal is for it to be there as it’s been for over 50 years for the people to continue to enjoy.

Guy Thomas - 29-06-’16 13:01
Guy Thomas

I’m not having any problems with the possibilities of total rebuild, my fear and problem with this concept is the disappearance of the Pier, if they wanted to redo the whole thing I’m cool with that, I just don’t want it to disappear.

Guy Thomas - 29-06-’16 14:26
Guy Thomas

If money is in fact the problem, at least allow the people to attempt part of it by raising the money to restore or rebuild this Historical Institution. There must be some compromise,…the government can spend billions on importing people here to kill us, but not a dime on something that the people want!

Guy Thomas - 30-06-’16 05:53
cavebear

I will guarantee the Audubon society who already messed up the outer banks have their dirty hands in this too they just dont know when to keep their hands out of anything. they will never ever get a penny from me or my family because of what they have done to the outer banks….

cavebear - 31-08-’16 14:30




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