Mercer's pier opens
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH - Six years after taking the brunt of nature's anger, Johnnie
Mercer's Fishing Pier is back in action.
With no fanfare, the Wrightsville Beach landmark opened its gates at 2 p.m.
Friday when the town gave the final OK, said Bob Johnson, the pier's owner. The
pier is located at 23
E Salisbury Street and for information call 910-256-2743.
Visitors began wandering up immediately.
"It's really beautiful," said Toshi Pope, looking at the surfers
below. When she moved to Wilmington from New Jersey two years ago, the site was
just a bunch of wood sticking out of the water, she said.
In 1996, the one-two punch of Hurricanes Bertha and Fran destroyed the old pier,
which dates back to the 1930s.
Rebuilding began in 1999, but legal wrangling over permits delayed the process
until now. The state and town said the pier house was inconsistent with approved
plans, requiring changes before work could continue.
The pier is still a work in progress. The arcade has boxes in it, the kitchen
and tackle shop aren't open yet and workers are still moving about, but all 750
feet of the pier are open for walkers and fishermen.
Built to sustain nature's fury, the chalky white structure got mixed reviews
from visitors who remembered its predecessor. Wood had a classier look than
concrete, said Ray Kleinosky, on vacation from Pennsylvania.
But others saw the beefed-up pier, which is the only all-concrete,
steel-reinforced fishing pier in North Carolina, as a major step forward.
"It's absolutely gorgeous," said Elaine Gerrard, visiting from
"It's a real improvement from the old one."
Only a couple of fishermen took advantage of the day to angle for Spanish
mackerel and bluefish at no cost.
Fishing from the pier will soon cost $8 a rod, though Mr. Johnson hedged when
asked when the costs would kick in.
Walking the pier will also command a fee, though Mr. Johnson did not say how
much. But for a good while, walkers will get in free, he said.
After being closed for so long, he wants word of mouth about the pier to build,