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Anna Maria pier set for full inspection

ANNA MARIA — City officials plan a “major inspection” of the Anna Maria city pier to ensure it is structurally sound before its 100th birthday celebration next year.

City officials inspect the pilings that support the pier every three months and conduct a monthly walking tour of the planks. But officials can’t recall a thorough inspection of the pier in the past several years.

“There shouldn’t be any major problems,” said Anna Maria Public Works Director Gary McKay, who compared the inspection to a yearly check-up. “It’s just never had a good major physical. This is a good time to do it.”

The city will pay $5,100 to M.T. Causley Inc. of Homestead to conduct the inspection, which is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 10.

City building inspector Bob Welch said it’s not unusual for a 99-year-old pier to have a few loose nails or sagging planks. But with next year’s centennial celebration, officials want to make sure the pier is holding up well.

“If there were any structural problems or challenges on the pier, it would give the city time to fix those,” he said.

Welch said the pier doesn’t pose major safety risks, but he suggested wearing shoes to combat the occasional splinter or loose nail.

With views of the Sunshine Skyway and Tampa Bay, the pier is a popular attraction for tourists and anglers. City Pier Restaurant is located at the end of the 700-foot pier.

In December 2000, the pier reopened after a 15-month renovation. An inspection before the renovation found that roughly half of the pilings were in questionable or worse condition.

Frank Almeda is the president of Pier Regulars, an informal group of pier fans. He said the city should consider raising the pier to prevent storm damage.

“If the pier was a little higher, it might help the situation,” he said. “When a storm comes, the water comes up so high. The waves can tear at the pier.”

Several visitors this week said they felt safe on the pier, but that an inspection might help.

“It’s pretty well worn,” said Tim Kennedy, who is visiting from Ocala for a week. “It gets so much traffic, I’d imagine they have to fix it before it falls apart.”

Bill Swatzell, of Bradenton, also said he feels safe on the pier. As someone who has taken his kids and grandkids to the pier for years, he said it’s too important to neglect.

“If they do an inspection and find some structural problems, I hope they can fix them,” he said. “When we come down here, this is the first place we want to go.”