‘We are trying to change people’s mentality’

By on July 28, 2023

Barbara and Andy DelVillar sit on a home-made bench at Pineapple Beach. (Photos by Corinne Saunders/OBV)
Local artist Dawn Van Ness painted the pineapple sign that decorates the cage for the trash can. (Photos by Corinne Saunders/OBV)
Flowers the DelVilars planted with decorated shells and a "Mockingbird Bar" on Pineapple Beach. (Photos by Corinne Saunders)
Pineapple Beach at sunset as the DelVilllars helped make it beautiful and family friendly. (Photos by Corinne Saunders)
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How the DelVillars turned an eyesore into Pineapple Beach

One recent evening, a man fished from the rock seawall at the newly named Pineapple Beach, located at the northwestern tip of Roanoke Island, next to the William B. Umstead Memorial Bridge, commonly called Old Manns Harbor Bridge. A motorcyclist pulled into the parking area and typed on his phone. Near sunset, a woman parked her car and stepped out to savor the view.

But only recently has this site become such a welcoming, safe place.

“It was nothing but condoms and needles,” Andy DelVillar said of the once-trashy area he and his wife Barbara have transformed over the last couple years into a beautiful, family-friendly soundside access. People used to dump household garbage. People left fish guts and deer and turkey carcasses strewn across the beach—”garbage everywhere,” he said.

But after over two years of their consistent efforts—and especially those of Andy, whom Barbara credited with doing most of the work—the area now has a different look and feel.

That’s why the Dare County Board of Commissioners presented Andy DelVillar with a certificate of appreciation at its April 3, 2023, meeting, recognizing “his passion, dedication and tireless efforts to serve as an exceptional steward of the unique coastal environment of the Outer Banks of North Carolina through his extensive volunteer work—particularly the recent creation of Pineapple Beach on Roanoke Island.”

“Our board likes to recognize people that, you know, go the extra mile and care about the community, and so I thought it was appropriate to recognize his achievements and thank him for what he’s been doing,” Board Chairman Bob Woodard told the Voice in a follow-up interview.

The DelVillars, originally from New York, retired five years ago from Chesterfield, Virginia, and moved to Nags Head. They had vacationed on the Outer Banks for years, drawn by their love of being around the water and participating in water-based activities.

With the time retirement provided them, they wanted to be “pro-environment” and to help people, Andy DelVillar said. They grow vegetables in their garden, then “we cook them, and we give them to the needy” through an outreach program at Source Church in Manteo.

They volunteer at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and at many other places, and they used to pick up trash along the shoreline from the Old Manns Harbor Bridge to the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge, carting it off in their boat or kayaks.

In April 2021, they launched their kayaks from the left side of the Old Manns Harbor Bridge instead of from the right-hand side, where they’d usually put in. The wildly overgrown, garbage-filled area touched a nerve. After making calls and finding out that the land was North Carolina Department of Transportation-owned and was not high on their priority list, they decided this would become their new clean-up mission.

But as fast as they collected the trash, people dumped more. Andy DelVillar saw a guy do an oil change in the parking lot and leave the oil. He regularly witnessed a man using the bathroom by the waterline, leaving toilet paper behind.

“We realized here, like a couple weeks into doing this, that just cleaning this up wasn’t going to do it,” he said. So their goal has evolved.

“We are trying to change people’s mentality,” he explained. “So, it’s like somebody’s backyard or what you need here basically was a barbecue.”

He hung an American flag. He cut down the grasses and reeds by the shore and hasn’t seen toilet paper since. He rakes the beach every day.

He said he’s putting his background in building and home improvement to work. With lumber that the Manteo Rotary Club donated, he built a bench facing the Croatan Sound. He collected and rearranged pieces of broken curb and asphalt to strategically slow runoff from the parking area and to create flowerbed areas.

The couple mulched these, brought zinnia seeds from their home garden and planted some canna lilies as well. They bring in 50 gallons water every day that it doesn’t rain to keep the flowers alive. And every day, they come and do a bit more work.

Andy DelVillar credited his wife with involving kids and families, which he said is crucial in changing people’s views of the place from being a dumping site to an area to cherish. The couple collected shells around Oregon Inlet and arranged them with a sign welcoming people to take one or two and bring them back painted.

“There’s a story behind every sign you see here,” he said, gesturing around. “People will teach you what you need to do.”

For example, one person dumped their oyster shells. So they put out a bucket with an “Oyster Shell Recycle Here” sign. The couple takes the bucket to the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s oyster shell recycling program.

“People have really, really been pleased” with their efforts, Andy DelVillar said. He’s spoken with one lady who comes every morning before work to watch the hummingbirds at the feeder he installed.

Even the name they gave the area, Pineapple Beach, is meant to be welcoming.

“So now the place is more like, people come and sit down and relax,” he said. “It’s a real change.”



Comments

  • North ender

    I travel the bridge frequently and have noticed the gradual improvements🤩
    I admire the flowers each time I’m heading east and wonder how they stay so beautiful! Thank you, Andy and Barbara, for you dedication in transforming this once gross, nasty place into a welcoming, family friendly sound beach area.

    Friday, Jul 28 @ 2:50 pm
  • Glenn

    Thank you, Andy & Barbara for all your efforts & for making a positive impact. Interesting that the land was the responsibility of the N.C. DOT and it was not a high priority. I’m sure the DOT has a lot on their plate but allowing a coastal area to become a dumping ground & hazard area for both humans & coastal creatures is unsat. Having human waste deposited in a coastal area….??? Maybe one of the reasons so much bacteria is being found in our waters. Thanks again for all ya’ll have done & continue to do!

    Friday, Jul 28 @ 6:58 pm
  • Frank

    Cool! Way back, in the 70’s, that spot was where my family used to go swimming. It was a nice place back then. Happy to hear it’s getting restored and cleaned up. Thanks!

    Friday, Jul 28 @ 8:33 pm
  • lil johnny

    Wife and I have been going there for years on the right side. I like catching the little white perch on ultra light tackle without launching the boat. I have never met the Delvillers but have met a few folk at that location. Nice to get off the crowded beach but I learned that you don’t hang around in that area alone with out a little backup actually it only got strange once for us over the years most of time just folks with small kids , dogs kayaks or bicycling . Glad it’s changing and folks see the gift . Cudos to the folks making a difference. Definitely a short walk to set up your chair and umbrella. Partial cloudy days are great to watch over the sound .

    Friday, Jul 28 @ 9:02 pm
  • KDH Resident

    Thank you to this wonderful couple who saw a need to clean up this area and acted upon it. We need more residents who are willing to do the work – not just complain.

    Friday, Jul 28 @ 10:27 pm
  • Gordon

    Ah, another victory for “the power of one!” So refreshing to see the reward for someone with initiative and motivation. Well done!

    Friday, Jul 28 @ 10:38 pm
  • Rocco Taggio

    Thank you for caring about our world.

    Saturday, Jul 29 @ 11:17 am
  • Dawn

    The Outer Banks is lucky to have new “locals” like yourselves who care so much about the area and the environment. The fact that you’ve worked, what sounds like, tirelessly, to create such a beautiful oasis, is admirable. Thank you so much for the amazing work you’ve done and continue to do; to keep it beautiful.

    Saturday, Jul 29 @ 1:13 pm
  • lippy

    So please to see this story and how these transplants have been a positive force for good here on the OBX.

    Sunday, Jul 30 @ 11:16 am
  • Bobert

    I used to smoke reefer and drink king kobra 40oz there back in the day. Where will the kids go now for safe and healthy fun?

    Monday, Jul 31 @ 3:31 pm
  • Michele Mulholland France

    This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing such great news about great people.

    Monday, Jul 31 @ 3:38 pm
  • North ender

    As I have traveled the bridge since this article, I have seen more parked cars and people. May they leave it better than they found it. That’s what my mom always taught me. Thanks again, Andy and Barbara, for this, Welcome to the Isalnd, it is beautiful.

    Tuesday, Aug 1 @ 8:51 pm