MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The sun hung high over the weather-beaten planks as a cool breeze drifted across the sand dunes. A low rumbling sound reverberated in the three men’s ears as they spied a wave of mechanical sea creatures crawling their way toward shore. Two of the men stood proud upon the spectacle as the third realized he was looking at the true speed and swiftness of the U.S. Marines.
The setting was Riseley Pier and the three attendants were President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Shah of Iran Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, observers to an amphibious landing exercise, April 14, 1962.
Since then, Riseley Pier has become a historical landmark to the Camp Lejeune and Onslow County communities. Over the years renovations have been conducted to keep it standing. However, the weathering of time and multiple hurricanes have deteriorated the structure and plans now exist to completely remove the pier.
“After Hurricane Ophelia hit in October 2005, the pier reached the point where it was condemned,” said Brian E. O’Leary, general manager of Onslow Beach. “Of the 300 feet of pier, the hurricane ripped off 150, but that wasn’t the main reason it was closed.”
The pier is supported by a network of pylons dug into the beach floor, however, the sand around the pylons has eroded away to the point where the pier is dangerously unstable. Any attempt to drill further down is made impossible by a sheet of bedrock beneath the sands surface.
The cost to renovate Riseley Pier once more has been calculated at $3.8 million, according to a report from the Base Installations and Environment Department.
“I realize this is a highly-emotional situation,” said O’Leary. “I myself am saddened the pier is going away.”
With the recent construction projects underway aboard Camp Lejuene, any diversion of funds toward the refurbishment of the pier would hardly be sufficient. Any funding appropriated for base maintenance is prioritized to the slated construction of a new base gate for greater security, four new highway interchanges and a total of seven miles of road, all planned over a total of six years.
Even with the public demand for Marine Corps Community Services to fund a rebuilding project, the pier is not even theirs to fix. Riseley Pier was originally constructed for II Marine Expeditionary Force amphibious training exercises.
“The pier belongs to II MEF originally constructed as a training facility,” said O’Leary. “(The public) was allowed to use it when they were not conducting exercises.”
After being constructed for II MEF, the pier was dedicated to former base commander Lt. Gen. James P. Riseley. The plaque that was once posted on the pier read, “Riseley Pier, Named In Honor of James P. Riseley, Lt. Gen., USMC, Retired, An Avid Sportsman, April 15, 1960.”
The pier measured 850 feet when built, but time and weather has shortened it to its condemned length of 150 feet.
While the condemning and eventual demolition of the pier may hit home with many service members and civilians, safety and progress must be observed. Even though the Riseley Pier will remain closed for its impending demolition, solace may be taken in something that cannot ever be demolished: the memories of times with friends and families upon the pier.