The Manatee Public Beach pier in Holmes Beach stood as an iconic landmark, extending into the Gulf of Mexico for almost 50 years before being torn down in 2009 due to deteriorating conditions that made it unsafe. At the time, hopes were high that it would be rebuilt, but now the city of Holmes Beach doesn’t want it back.
Manatee County this week, at the behest of Commissioner Carol Whitmore, sent a letter to the city of Holmes Beach asking the city to make a determination before she began the work of finding the funding. The response was not what she expected.
“I’m not surprised, but disappointed,” Whitmore said. “Part of the problem is that you only have one person on that city commission that was born and raised there. But I do understand because they don’t want a 15-foot-high pier like the state requires and I probably wouldn’t want that, either.”
The cost, based off 2013 estimates, would have been $1.5 million to $2.5 million. The new pier would not have qualified to be funded by tourist tax dollars. While the original pier was built in the 1960s as a beach erosion measure, Whitmore said years of study showed it wasn’t serving its purpose.
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“So it would have had to come out of the general fund and I would have worked to find a way to make that happen,” Whitmore said.
The original pier was only a few feet off the water. Meeting current requirements would have required a much larger pier.
Holmes Beach Commissioner and Vice Mayor Judy Titsworth said that was the deciding factor because the city didn’t want something “big and ugly” blocking the waterfront view to the Gulf of Mexico.
“The old pier was a really great pier,” said Titsworth. “If they were to construct this new pier, it would be much taller. It would be huge and expensive and wouldn’t be a nice little pier like it used to be.”
Titsworth wasn’t alone. The city reviewed the dimensions of the proposed new pier earlier this week and not a single commissioner supported rebuilding the pier.
“No one wants to ruin the beautiful waterfront with this proposal,” Titsworth said. “The Anna Maria pier is a true fishing pier,” which is why the city informed the county that if it has money budgeted for the Holmes Beach pier, to give it to the city of Anna Maria to repair its pier.
The Anna Maria City Pier has been closed since September because of damage suffered during Hurricane Irma.
Whitmore said it would be nice of the Holmes Beach commissioners to read the newspaper once in awhile.
“First of all, we don’t have the funding for the new pier,” she said. “I was going to try and fight for it, but it’s not like it’s sitting there. Secondly, we’ve already funded up to $1.8 million for the Anna Maria pier and helped the city secure another $750,000 in a state grant. We are trying really hard to get that pier back.”
Whitmore is a native of Holmes Beach and once served on the city commission, as well as mayor of the city.
“It’s a little sad for me because I’ve been going there my whole life and that pier was such a part of the city,” she said. “I wanted the letter sent because I still have a lot of friends who ask about it and want it back.”
Titsworth, whose maiden name is Holmes and whose family founded the city, said she hasn’t heard the same.
“The old pier has been gone for awhile now and people are used to it,” she said. “I think once it was gone for awhile, everyone realized how much prettier the waterfront is now.”
Titsworth said it’s been many years since anyone has pushed for the pier to be rebuilt and the city probably had more complaints about it than compliments. She said it was dangerous to swim near the pier because of people jumping off it or using it for fishing.
“It’s just not really needed,” Titsworth said. “There’s just no interest in having it and even if there was, it would be more of a want than a need.”