Reprinted from the Outer Banks Voice
MANNS HARBOR — A one-of-a-kind project in which recreational and commercial fishermen will be working together is about to take shape at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s waterfront property in this Dare County community.
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.
The new boat ramps and docks in Manns Harbor represent a rare partnership between commercial and sports fishermen.
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 N.C. General Assembly created the Wildlife Access and Marine Industry Fund in 2007 to enchance working waterfronts and public water access. The state provided $4.3 million to buy the Manns Harbor site and make improvements.
The fund contributed $3.9 million for the purchase, the N.C. 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 grants from the state’s saltwater and freshwater fishing licensing fees went toward buying and improving the commercial site. The only money used from the fishing license 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 building condominiums and a private marina.
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 vehicles and trailers and seven vehicle-only parking spaces.
The second phase will include the commercial fishing facilities.
The wildlife access fund 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 the fund 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 N.C. 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 federation, this is the first time the Wildlife Resources Commission has built 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 recreational and commercial uses 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