WANCHESE — The first thing a visitor may notice about the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s new office in Wanchese is the view, which looks out over the gentle waters of Roanoke Sound. For the federation, however, the building is more than its view – it’s a representation of a strong bond to the community and the greater ability to meet its mission of promoting clean and healthy coastal waters.
The staff invites the public to take in the view and visit the new two-story office in the Marine Industrial Park of Wanchese at an open house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday.
The Wanchese office is one of three federation offices along the state’s coast. The others are in Ocean in Carteret County and Wrightsville Beach.
Erin Fleckenstein, a coastal scientist and manager of the Wanchese office, said that between an expanding staff and high attendance to various meetings, the original three-office building near downtown Manteo was not able to suit the staff’s needs.
“The old space in Manteo was just too small to accommodate all of the people,” Fleckenstein said.
The new office in Wanchese was originally a radio station, and after a few of weeks of renovating, cleaning and decorating, it now comfortably fits the federation’s six full- and part-time employees and additional interns.
The group has already had quite the welcome to Wanchese.
A few days before they moved in, their mailbox, which was black, with a red flag and wooden post, was painted a bright red-orange. While no one in the office is sure who did it and why, or if it was even done in relation to the federation, the office enjoyed the paint job.
“We put the word out to the community that we liked it,” Fleckenstein said.
The new building features an education area, six offices, a conference room, an intern working space and a full-service kitchen, which Fleckenstein said will be ideal for the office’s annual fish fry – this year on Sept. 30 – and other events.
A rain barrel, rain garden and permeable-surface parking pad are among the office’s environmentally friendly features. However, work on the property isn’t done yet.
“We hope to do some additional work to showcase our projects,” Fleckenstein said.
The staff hopes to build a dock and install demonstrations of various coastal management practices along a nearby shoreline, including oyster restoration and living shoreline techniques.
Michelle Clower, a fellow at the office, said installments like these would help the public understand how different techniques work.
“That’s what I’m most excited for,” she said, “making the techniques real, instead of just conceptually telling people about it.”
As the move into the new office has progressed over the last few weeks, the staff found support in the local community. For example, longtime federation supporters Ralph and Ginger Webster hosted a “friend-raiser” in their home at Southern Shores that attracted about 100 people.
Working in Wanchese
The Marine Industrial Park is home to commercial fishing and boat building operations. Those industries are not typically associated with an environmental advocacy group like the federation, Fleckenstein said, but the relationship actually goes hand in hand.
“We’re really excited about the space because our goal is to have clean water and a healthy environment,” Fleckenstein said, “and we’ll be working right next door to people and industries that depend most on that.”
Ladd Bayliss, a coastal advocate in the office and an Outer Banks native, said the new location would further the office’s mission of protecting the coast by appealing to those who are connected to its waters.
“What we’re trying to do here is make people become, and understand the value of, being an advocate for the water,” she said.
On a day-to-day basis, Bayliss said the office’s interaction in Wanchese with the community will not differ much from its interactions in Manteo. They hope to continue their current programs, like litter cleanups, and to add more initiatives.
Fleckenstein said Bob Peele, the director of the Marine Industrial Park Authority, told the federation about the open office space and invited them to consider its use.
“I think it’s very emblematic of the partnerships that we try to cultivate in our region,” Fleckenstein said, “working with non-traditional partners to reach our common goals of a healthy coast.”