While it faced demolition more than 30 years ago, the Green Bridge Fishing Pier has become one of Manatee County’s greatest recreational assets, county officials say.
But within five years, the pier, which juts out into the Manatee River from Palmetto, could be deemed too unsafe for use if needed renovations aren’t done.
“It’s not yet an unsafe structure but it is tending toward that,” Charlie Hunsicker, the county’s parks and natural resources director, told commissioners Tuesday.
The price tag for the bare minimum renovations of the 2,100-foot-long pier is about $1.5 million, according to Chad Butzow, deputy director of the public works department.
“It has the ability to have its life extended,” he said. “It is definitely at a decayed state.”
If the renovations are completed, it could extend the life of the pier by “20 good years,” Butzow said.
“With the continued ‘do nothing,’ we are very concerned if we will make five years with full pier opened,” he said. “We are starting to get that concerned.”
While commissioners did not take formal action Tuesday since it was a work session, they agreed that something needs to be done to address the deteriorating pier. It would be more costly to demolish the pier rather than repairing it, as that would require a complete replacement, which would run as much as $15 million, according to staff.
County staff will look to see if Tourist Development Tax dollars can be used for the repairs.
“It’s pretty simple. We need to keep it,” Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said.
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said demolition is not even a consideration.
“It’s such a gem, a recreational gem for the community,” she said. “That pier is used so extensively by the public.”
Palmetto resident Solomon Barnes, who is retired from the city of Sarasota’s water department, was at the pier Tuesday afternoon. Barnes comes to the pier about four times a week.
“I like biking so I make sure I come here,” he said. “I like the view, look around, look at the boats. It is a good place to sit. Very peaceful.”
Sometimes Barnes said he likes to come watch the sunsets off the pier.
“They need to keep this because everybody likes it,” he said.
The possibility of demolishing a portion of the pier was discussed, which Bryant said would be “easier for the city of Palmetto to help with maintenance and also on patrol.”
“There are a lot of benefits to actually shortening the length of it,” she said.
Also on Tuesday, the commission heard a presentation about the RESTORE Act funding resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Manatee County will be receiving approximately $18 million over a 15-year period as a result from the BP Oil Spill.
Among the projects proposed to be funded with the money will include funding for The Folk School at the Florida Maritime Museum, workforce development, Manatee River Oyster Habitat Restoration, natural systems protection and enhancement and Robinson Preserve expansion coastal uplands.
“We have to think of it as a 15-year improvement plan,” Hunsicker said. “The projects that we are proposing are projects that can incrementally be brought about.”