County commissioners agreed Monday to give the private group the Maritime Heritage Foundation $600,000 in county economic development funds to contribute to development of the N.C. Maritime Museum’s Gallants Channel Annex in Beaufort, seen here during the May 17 Beaufort Music Festival. The property is set to be the site of a new maritime museum. (Dylan Ray photo)

BEAUFORT — Following two different Monday evening presentations, organizers behind efforts to construct a new N.C. Maritime Museum and campus managed to garner a county contribution totaling $600,000.

Commissioner Ed Wheatly suggested the county make the donation to the Maritime Heritage Foundation of Beaufort to help with their ongoing fundraising efforts for the project.

“This project will be a game changer for Beaufort and Carteret County,” Mr. Wheatly said. “I see it … having the same effect that the aquarium did on Pine Knoll Shores.”

So far organizers have directly raised $1.8 million. They said they also hope to pursue a number of grants and other funding packages, including money earmarked in the state’s upcoming  fiscal 2019-20 year budget.

The county’s $600,000 donation will come from funds earmarked for economic development.

“So we’re not spending money from our fund balance or general fund,” County Chairperson Mark Mansfield said.

According to a presentation given Monday night to Beaufort town commissioners at their meeting in the town hall commissioners’ boardroom and to county commissioners during their meeting at the administration building, the project will relocate the maritime museum from its current home on Front Street in Beaufort to the Gallants Channel annex property.

The new building on Gallants Channel would allow for more exhibit space, according to findings from the project’s economic impact study, released last week.

“The recommended plan for the new Maritime Museum at Gallants Channel is a (plus or minus) 80,000 square foot museum to be designed and developed,” reads an excerpt from the study.

Organizers behind the study told Beaufort commissioners they aren’t completely sure what they plan to do with the current building on Front Street.

The primary reason behind the relocation effort is to accommodate how popular the museum has become, according to ConsultEcon senior associate James Stevens.

Maritime Heritage Foundation officials solicited help from Massachusetts-based consulting firm ConsultEcon for the economic impact study and Monday’s presentations.

“A lot of those visitors are coming from out of the county,” Mr. Stevens said.

Relocating the museum is only part of the total project, which entails the construction of a maritime center on the same property.

“A (plus or minus) 4,000 square foot Maritime Center will support expansion of maritime and marine science programming, junior and adult sailing programs and promote expanded use of the Gallants Channel site,” reads the study.

During Beaufort’s presentation, officials said the scope of the project rivals that of the recently completed high-rise bridge across Gallants Channel.

“This is a very large construction project,” Mr. Stevens said at Beaufort’s meeting.

Later in the evening, at the county meeting, Mr. Stevens said the museum project, like the high-rise bridge project, could take several years to complete.

“There is roughly a 10-year time frame,” he said.

Mr. Stevens told Beaufort commissioners the total capital costs for the project is around $60 million. The annex property was purchased years ago by the state.

Beaufort Commissioner Sharon Harker asked about the ratio of in-county employees versus out-of-county employees. Mr. Stevens it was still too early in the process to answer that question definitively.

When the museum is complete, it will employ an estimated 28 full-time employees and 27 part-time employees.

Beaufort Commissioner Ann Carter asked how many people are currently employed at the museum on Front Street. There are 21 full-time employees and about three part-time, according to Mr. Stevens.

At the county presentation, Mr. Mansfield expressed support for the project, saying the Maritime Museum in its current form is already one of the state’s top museums.

“I see this being the anchor,” Mr. Mansfield said. “You know, solidify us as a tourist destination. The Crystal Coast is one of the top visited locations and Beaufort. Southern Living named them the best small town in America. I believe (the museum) is a perfect fit.”

Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.

(8) comments


Mc Donald's employ's more folks then this, and actually makes a profit! (even after you great group of pirate's get done with their fee's and all your lame tax codes)

But, yes, i'm sure this is the missing link that all of the great 1.8 square miles of Beaufort , with its one gas station , will create huge profit's for taxpayers, and thereby reduce the need for more regulations, correct?


Core Sounder

59% of the school kids in Carteret county are qualified for reduced or free meals at school yet our county leaders can afford to spend millions to pump sand on our private ocean front beaches along with support for our many different museums. So many people in this area cant even get back into their homes but yet there seems to be plenty of money for those that have the least need for it.


Totally agree! So many people in this area struggling, struggling, struggling by working several jobs to even survive. There's a drug epidemic that's out of control in the county, not to mention all the fallout w/kids in foster care, etc. and there's this much money to spend on a MUSEUM?? People in the county need jobs that they can do to earn a living wage. This is so ridiculous on so many levels! But yeah, Beaufort will just attract all these tourists and additional issues that come with them, all while the locals struggle to make it.


If a condos or a hotel were planned everyone would complain. If Walmart or Dollar General purchased the land everyone would complain. What is wrong with a museum that will employ 50+. I am not a fan of Beaufort or the County donating funds but this has nothing to do with people struggling from Florence or helping those get out of poverty. How far would $600,000 go to solving the County economic crises on wages and poverty ? This amounts to less than $9 per Carteret County resident.


There is a huge lack of help for many people in this area who are poor and/or struggle from addiction. The county had to basically beg to get more social workers to help with the exploding need of kids in foster care. There is a huge lack of assistance for those struggling with addiction and a big need for subsidized childcare and housing. That 600,000 would make a HUGE difference in those areas and in the lives of the locals who the politicians seem to think are disposable or irrelevant to making Beaufort such a "cool town" or destination.

morehood city res

what a losing venture and poor use of county funds. this was attempted about 25 yrs ago to no avail. maybe someday when we become the next tidewater, va area will it be feasible.
i would have to bet that most people only visit the current maritime museum because they happen to be on front st. and they stumble across it and realize it is free admission. most will not be willing to get back in their car and drive over to gallants channel then attempt a death defying exit off west beaufort rd after leaving the new museum.


build it and they will come.

David Collins

You can bet the farm that the commissioners have pretty well decided just who will get the old site. Just what it the return on investing in this new venture for the taxpayers? Especially if it is free to all. No mention of any fees so it must be free. Who pays for the additional employees and benefits? Might not be so free after all. Have noticed that politicians love to build grand palaces, the best that taxpayer money can buy. Sort of a memorial to their wisdom and superior vision.

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