Public pleas: 
Save pier planks

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Visitors to the Anna Maria City Pier Nov. 10 peer over the gate that prohibits entry. The pier has been closed since Hurricane Irma passed over Sept. 10-11 and caused damage to the bait shop and decking. There are 1,000 engraved planks on the damaged pier. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

Benches on the Anna Maria City Pier. A boardwalk in Anna Maria. Wall decor.

Emails to the city of Anna Maria contain a plethora of suggestions for re-purposing or salvaging the engraved Anna Maria City Pier planks when the pier is rebuilt.

Ayres Associates, the engineering firm hired to rebuild the pier, estimated it will take 62-82 weeks to repair and rebuild the structure.

Hurricane Irma’s passage Sept. 10-11 left the pier “totally destroyed,” according to the terms of the city’s lease with Mario Schoenfelder, which defines total destruction as damage that takes more than 120 days to repair.

However, the city has maintained the pier was in poor shape even before the hurricane.

A 2015 marine survey that found the pier in need of repair sent the city searching for repair bids before Hurricane Irma hit.

In a proposal Oct. 19, Ayres suggested using concrete pilings and lumberock — a mineral-plastic composite — planks to rebuild the pier and give it a 100-year lifespan. Commissioners voted to preserve the pier as long as possible.

One question dominated the conversation: What will the city do with the existing planks?

People have proposed all sorts of ways to reuse the sponsor planks, engraved and installed as part of the pier’s 100-year anniversary celebration in 2010 in a partnership between the pier tenant, the City Pier Restaurant, and The Islander.

Not all people are interested in saving their planks — one email from a plank owner sent to the city of Anna Maria says the engraving was dedicated to a now-failed relationship and the owner’s plank could be destroyed without heartache.

But the vast majority of writers asked for their planks to be reused or returned.

“We hope that the planks will be used in some way at least that we can still see them,” wrote Bradenton residents Carol and Gerry Verrechia Oct. 27 in an email.

Douglas Terry, president of a once active group known as the Pier Regulars, asked Murphy to consider park benches, which he suggested would be helpful to old-timers walking the pier.

An email signed by the Callen family asks the city to keep a plank made in honor of their parents. Jim Callen was one of the founders of an early Anna Maria Turtle Watch organization. “My parents are no longer with us and we would like to keep this memory,” the email reads.

Rick Karcher, an architect in Pennsylvania, recommended re-purposing the planks for wall or ceiling coverage in the pier restaurant.

The city has been searching for solutions to retain the planks. Mayor Dan Murphy appealed to commissioners Nov. 9, asking them to authorize his search for alternatives to destroying the planks.

Murphy said one cost-estimate for salvaging the planks — de-nailing, power cleaning and storing — came in at more than $50,000.

Commissioners approved his request and asked Murphy to look into costs for saving just the planks that people want.

Commissioner Dale Woodland, who serves as liaison to the Anna Maria City Pier, asked Murphy to reconsider using concrete pilings in the rebuild. He suggested the city use wood pilings wrapped in vinyl.

Woodland said he’d spoken to two marine contractors who recommended using wood pilings, significantly cheaper than concrete.

Estimates for construction are about $5 million, which Murphy hopes to cover through a combination of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, state funds and the beach concession fund, a pool of money that comes from concessions sold at Manatee Beach.

However, Murphy said specifics should wait until a December meeting with Ayres Associates.

“Everywhere I go, people have input,” Woodland said Nov. 24. The pier has “been there over 100 years,” he said. “It’s a special, special place. We need to make sure with such an important undertaking, we get this right.”

Woodland said the more input people provide on the pier, whether they’re locals who see it daily or experts who have recommendations, the better the end result will be.

Woodland said he is encouraging people to attend the meeting with Ayres Associates, which will be 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

“When (the pier) is done, it’s going to be something the whole community is proud of,” Woodland said.

6 thoughts on “Public pleas: 
Save pier planks

  1. Nick Melczarek, Ph.D.

    My two best friends and their mother longtime AMI resident and staunch defender of AMI’s integrity Sue Normand, are commemorated on a plank. It should not cost the developers much to store requested planks for pickup within one year by those interested. The Pier is an essential part of AMI’s history, especially for those of us who grew up there, and those commemorative planks are a clear sign of that. Let those who wish to claim those planks, which will otherwise callously be discarded, do so as keepsakes of both AMI and those named on the planks.

  2. air4smom

    I’d be willing to bet that if you ask you would get volunteers to help with de-nailing. Then allow anyone with proof of purchase and willing to pay shipping, get their plank returned. At this point, why not sale any unclaimed planks to help pay for new pier. I’m sure lots of folks would like to own a piece of this historic landmark.

  3. Becky Kieffer

    We want our planks! Iive said it before and ‘ll keep saying it over and over! We bought two in memory of my Dad. We don’t want them put in storage. We dont want them “repurposed”. We bought them thinking they would be there long after us. GIVE THEM BACK! You don’t even have to clean them……..just give them back to their rightful owners!
    Plank #99 And #263.
    Thanks to the Islander for keeping us informed!

    1. bonnerj

      The planks were sold as sponsorship of the centennial for the pier — not owned by the buyer — owned by the pier tenant. The tenant was responsible for repairs and maintenance, and the installation included new stringers/support for the walkway. You sponsored the centennial. Sorry to be blunt, but the sponsors don’t own the planks. — Bonner Joy

  4. John and Jacky Hathaway

    My husband and I have a sponsored plank on City Pier but as UK residents it would not be feasible for us to take back our plank to reuse at home. We trust the judgement of the City Council to find the best use for the planks but do hope that they are retained in some form please.

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