Southport residents express concerns over possible loss of Quarantine Station
Congressman has asked U.S. Coast Guard to remove final platform
Many Southport residents don't want the last remnants of the Quarantine Station to be removed from the Cape Fear River.
Southport residents who want to preserve some local history met on Aug. 26 with a representative of Rep. Mike McIntyre to try and save the last remaining platform of the Cape Fear Quarantine Station in the Cape Fear River.
The platform is all that remains of the Cape Fear Quarantine Station, which was a hospital built above the river that served shipping interests on the river from 1895 to 1951. In 1951, a fire destroyed much of the quarantine station, and in 1954, Hurricane Hazel completed the destruction. The concrete platform that remains is the base of the water tower and is located about 600 feet south of the Cape Fear River shipping channel about a mile upriver from the Southport waterfront.
McIntyre had sent a letter to the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on Aug. 7 requesting removing or lighting of the platform. He sent an agent from his office in Leland, Tony McEwen, to meet with about 20 Southport residents who oppose that letter.
McEwen said McIntyre sent his letter to the Coast Guard after a request by Ed Pierce of Wilmington, plus friends and supporters. On Aug. 4, 2012, Pierce, his wife Barbara and two other friends were traveling the Cape Fear River in Pierce’s 20-foot Cobia runabout when they collided with the platform at approximately 9:00 p.m. Gill was thrown overboard and rescued by nearby fishermen, and Barbara Pierce died from her injuries.†
Pierce believes the platform should have warning lights or be removed, and he contacted McIntyre’s office for help. Compounding the issue is the fact the quarantine station was built with federal and state funds and no one seems to know who actually owns the remaining platform.
The concern of the Southport residents is that the platform is all that remains of a very important part of their history. They also contend that it is 600 feet out of the shipping channel, which is wide, deep and well-marked.
All of the people attending the meeting supported leaving the tower in place. Some said they would not be opposed to lighting it, but they are concerned that extra lights in that section of the river could be more confusing than helpful.†
“Those who traverse that area of the river know there is as much right under the water around the platform as there as there is on top of it,” said Rick Johnstone, a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard. “If you were to light every obstruction from here to Wilmington, it would look like a Christmas tree. My regards go to the Pierce family over this tragic accident, but I don’t think this is necessary or a good idea.”
Basil Watts, a retired Cape Fear Rive pilot, said, “I believe we have a well-marked channel and I do not feel that this platform should be removed. It’s a historically significant piece of our town and the river. I’m over 60 and have lived in Southport all my life and have never heard of another incident involving the Quarantine Station. It is 600 feet outside the navigable channel and should not be considered an obstruction that is hazardous to most boaters, despite its role in this incident.”†
McEwen said he would report the comments from the meeting to McIntyre He said that McIntyre had not received a reply from Admiral Papp but expected it in the next several weeks.
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Posted on January 10 at 10:33 am by Jerry Dilsaver
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