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Date of Issue: September 24, 2009

Pier to come down, replacement uncertain

The pier at the Manatee Public Beach will come down in November, but what — if anything — will replace the deteriorated structure remains an uncertainty.

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Pier review
The Manatee County Board of Commissioners and the Manatee County Tourist Development Council will be reviewing replacement options for the soon-to-be-demolished pier at the Manatee Public Beach. For now the pier is closed, leaving fishers on the shore.
Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners declined to act on a request to authorize county staff to proceed with work to replace the pier with a 700-foot pier similar to structures in other coastal cities.

That’s due to the price tag on a longer pier and concerns about the appropriateness of a long pier at the county beach in Holmes Beach.

Instead of endorsing a long pier, commissioners agreed to ask the Manatee County Tourist Development Council to consider funding priorities, including a new pier at the public beach, but also potential renovations for the city-owned pier in Anna Maria and a new pier in Bradenton Beach.

The existing pier was closed due to safety concerns and the decision made to demolish the structure.

In March, county commissioners reviewed a plan for a 312-foot replacement pier. The cost to demolish the existing pier and rebuild a new pier was estimated at $1.5 million.

On Sept. 15, county natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker presented commissioners with artistic renderings of a replacement pier.

The rendering of a 312-foot pier designed to be accessible under the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act and meet minimum heights above the sea floor shows a “dramatically different” structure than the one to be torn down, Hunsicker said.

The pier, to meet height requirements over the gently sloping Gulf shore at Manatee Public Beach, goes up and then abruptly stops.

Another rendering showed a 700-foot pier, a structure about the same length as a pier in Venice.

The 700-foot structure provides the aesthetic and recreational attributes of a recreational pier designed for fishing and passive recreational uses, Hunsicker said.

Fishing at the end of the longer pier would be in water 15-18 feet deep.

“A 700-foot structure, that is our recommendation,” Hunsicker said.

He told the board the longer pier would cost more, but that a financing plan was in the works.

The total cost to demolish the existing pier and build a 312-foot pier would be $1.4 million, according to a county memo.

The total cost to demolish the existing pier and build a 700-foot pier would be $2.7 million.

“It looks very nice,” Commissioner Carol Whitmore said of the longer pier. But, she added, “Where in the heck are we going to get the money?”

Commissioner Joe McClash added, “I think it is out of character for Holmes Beach.… I couldn’t stomach seeing a Venice pier there. …I’d rather just remove it.”

However, Commissioner Larry Bustle said he has walked long piers in other cities and “I wondered why we don’t have that in Manatee County. … I think it’s great. It’s exactly what our tourist dollars are for.”

But the commission was reluctant to vote on the extension without more information on the financing, and agreed to turn to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council for its recommendations.

“I’d like to kind of move it along but would like to see the financing,” said Commissioner John Chappie. “This is clearly a want, not a need.”

“Perhaps they have a more pressing need out there,” Commissioner Ron Getman said of TDC priorities.

The board agreed to seek a priority list from the TDC, which Whitmore said would be discussed at the council’s next meeting.