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Date of Issue: February 25, 2009

Manatee Public Beach pier closed indefinitely

Pier 'for the birds'
Visitors to the Manatee Beach can hope the fishing-pedestrian pier is fixed quickly, but that prospect is unlikely considering the channels the project will go through and the cost. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy
Visitor says, 'This stinks'
Beverly Madden, visiting Holmes Beach for the first time for a month from Hyde Park, Vt., said just days ago she could walk out the Manatee Beach pier and watch folks fish, but now she can't walk under the pier or on it. Madden walks the beach and collecting shells for her grandkids, and she thinks "this stinks." It's just for the birds now, and "that't a bummer," she said.

The pier at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach was blocked to pedestrians Sunday by caution tape and warning signs.

The move came after an engineer’s report to Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker deemed the pier “unsafe” for public use.

Hunsicker told county commissioners Feb. 19 that the pier would be closed as soon as possible because the county could not afford to take a chance on endangering public safety.

“The pier will close as soon as I can get a fence company out there,” he said.

The report that caused the county to close the pier came from Bridge Design Associates Inc. of West Palm Beach, the county’s bridge inspection company, following a January inspection of the pier.

Hunsicker said that because of storms and wave activity, the pier has continued to deteriorate since the previous inspection in December 2008.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a Holmes Beach resident, said she was stunned by the news.

“I’m definitely not happy. It’s the height of the tourist season. But I understand the safety issue. After the report, we can’t afford to endanger public safety or the liability issue,” she said.

But Hunsicker’s real bombshell came when he recommended the commission build a new pier rather than repair the current structure, and he suggested the Manatee County Tourist Development Council should fund it.

Whitmore, a former mayor of Holmes Beach, was not enthusiastic about using TDC money, or even getting approval from a majority of commissioners. She said the commission is scheduled to discuss the pier issue at its Feb. 24 meeting.

“It’s going to be hard to get a consensus to build a new pier. Not everyone on the commission is in favor of a new structure. And whatever we decide, it will take months to get the permits,” she said.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he was surprised to hear the pier will close, but after reading the engineering report, he agreed based on the safety issue.

On learning the estimates to repair or replace the pier, Bohnenberger said building a new structure seemed the best option. “It would seem to me that repairing the pier is a waste of money,” he said.

Hunsicker presented four options to county commissioners Feb. 19 regarding the costs to repair or replace the pier:

  • Demolition and removal: $670,000.
  • Repair existing pier: $1.683 million.
  • Build over top of existing pier: $1.490 million.
  • Replace with conventional pier: $1.495 million.

Hunsicker added that “these costs represent an increase of almost $300,000 from the former estimates because additional structural deterioration since the last inspection has rendered the existing structure unsuitable.”



Ain’t that a shame?

Band-Aids. Seems like all we get is Band-Aids and the reason is always that anything else costs too much.

But what is the cost, really, when you factor all the domino effects on what was once the jewel of Manatee County — the crowning jewel known as Manatee Public Beach.

The beach is THE REASON people come here. It is Anna Maria Island’s attraction. It’s THE BEACH.

And it’s been getting cheap bandages for much too long to still be called our jewel.

Now the Manatee Beach pier is closed — again. No fishing, no strolling, no way to peer down into the Gulf of Mexico waters.

We hate to point and shout, but, hey! Look at Lido Beach in Sarasota County. It’s a well-maintained public beach with an organized, ample parking lot, beach concessions, a swimming pool (they have swim teams and Olympic swimmers). It’s a beautiful facility.

At Manatee Beach, we have rip-rap lining the beach to keep cars off the sand. And the paved parking lot is covered by sand, so there needs to be some delineation.

It’s like comparing a crude piece of wood to a beautifully crafted surfboard. It just doesn’t cut the wave.

Manatee Beach has been neglected and short-changed for too long.

The building once had a roof-top patio and hosted dances under the stars, with a wide, sweeping staircase leading a promenade to the pier, welcoming moonlit strolls.

The county does little more than apply cheap lipstick to the beach facilities, but nothing to restore its grandeur.

It seems every year the budget is inadequate. As soon as something breaks, it’s torn down or removed. Forgotten.

We’ve said it so many times, to a parade of 17 years of elected officials: It’s not enough.

It’s not enough to patch a crown and hope the crowds won’t notice the tarnish.

Why is it that no one has the zeal or vision that nature demands to steward the beach.

It’s not enough to put sand on the shore and beckon to visitors if we don’t put out a welcome mat.

Whether it’s from tourist tax dollars that help pay for adding sand to the shore, a convention center and a ball park or the county budget that provides high salaries for elected officials, our public beaches deserve a better commitment.

We need to stop hacking at the beanstalk and nourish it.

County commissioner e-mails

District 1

Larry Bustle

District 2

Gwen Brown

District 3

John R. Chappie

District 4

Ron Getman

District 5

Donna Hayes

At Large

Carol Whitmore

At Large

Joe McClash

  • Manatee County Board of Commissioners
  • P.O. Box 1000, Bradenton, FL 34206-1000
  • 1112 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, FL 34205
  • Phone: 941-748-4501, Fax: 941-745-3790