With more than a quarter of a million dollars in the bank,
the N.C. Coastal Federation is well on its way to raising the $600,000 it needs
to complete the opening of their new Southeast regional office.
Despite a constant downpour and regular flashes of lightning
at Wrightsville Beach’s Historic Square on Thursday evening, Aug. 22, a crowd
of about three dozen business leaders, elected representatives, staff and
volunteers gathered for the announcement of NCCF’s capital campaign to raise
funds for its new office.
According to Sally Steele, development director for the
environmental group, about $250,000 of the money that was already raised was
used to physically move the house from its original location on the south side
of Harbor Island. This past June, construction crews knocked out the building’s
bottom floor, replacing it with pilings until it was put on a barge and sailed
around the island to become the latest addition to the town’s Historic Square.
“We searched for years for the perfect location that would
embody who we are and what our mission is,” said Tracy Skrabal, a coastal
scientist and NCCF’s southeast regional office manager. “It’s been just a year
since we found out about this house, and it’s taken us just ten months to get
all the permits, finalize about eight legal agreements and work with an army of
Ted Wilgis is the coastal education coordinator for the
organization, and he rattled off an abundance of educational and outreach
programs planned for the new space.
“We hope to have rain gardens, cisterns, a native plant
nursery and a wetland plant nursery for people to come learn how they can do
this at their own home,” he said. “Speakers series, film series, to coastal art
shows … our members will be able to come to events and workshops here, as well
as the public.”
When complete, the center will include a range of amenities
including a classroom with laboratory space and aquariums, event rooms, an
outdoor classroom and easy access to the surrounding saltmarsh and tidal creek
habitats. Wilgis also stressed that their programming would include a continuing
partnership with the Town of Wrightsville Beach and the adjacent Wrightsville
Beach Museum of History.
Evidencing that connection was outgoing mayor David Cignotti,
who delivered a short speech praising the group for helping to realize one of
his major initiatives.
“The idea of the historic square came up about five and
half, almost six years ago,” he said, sharing credit with former mayor Bob O’Quinn,
who was also in attendance. “I was just tickled to death when [the NCCF]
started talking about it; it’s one of the neatest homes on the beach.”
Also in attendance was N.C. House Representative Rick
Catlin, who was quick to praise the organization.
“I’ve been working with the Coastal Federation almost daily
this session. They keep things in balance. I have worked with them on a lot of
issues,” he said, specifically pointing to their work to create compromise
legislation for the state’s terminal groin pilot program.
Mike Giles, the organization’s coastal advocate, said that
while no specific date has been set, he expects to officially open the doors to
the new office sometime in early 2014.