Jax Beach considering taking over pier operations

  • The Jacksonville Beach pier. (photo by Liza Mitchell)
    The Jacksonville Beach pier. (photo by Liza Mitchell)

Jacksonville Beach officials are weighing the possibility of taking over operation of the city’s fishing pier once reconstruction is complete.
The storm-battered structure sustained damage during Hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and again the following year during Hurricane Irma. Repairs are underway and are expected to continue for the next 18 to 24 months. The projected completion date is November 2022.
On Feb. 18, City Manager Mike Steffopoulos said the City Council recently proposed exploring the transfer of operations to Jacksonville Beach. While the pier is owned and operated by the city of Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach owns the parking lot. Mayor Charlie Latham said the city will consider taking over operation of the 1,300-foot pier once work is complete.
“The City Council brought this up a couple of months ago as we get closer to the completion of the project that they’d like to have a conversation with the city of Jacksonville about taking over the operation,” he said. “It’s also not lost on me that when we get towards the completion it’s a high probability that we will have a different sitting council since the council will change in November of this year. So, whether or not they have the same desire, it will be a question to be asked to them once we get closer to the completion of the pier.”
Powerful waves generated during Hurricane Matthew hammered the pier, punching holes in the last 300 feet of the deck. A portion of the pier reopened in February 2018, but only the first 600 feet limiting fishing to high tide.
The new structure will be fortified to withstand a 50-year storm with the pier’s end elevated an additional eight feet. The length will remain the same. The previous design was built to survive a 20-year storm. According to building officials, the storm surge produced by Matthew equated to that of a 25-year storm.
“Hopefully, the repairs that are being made are going to leave it in better condition than before and in a more resilient state to future storms,” Steffopoulos said.
While he acknowledged that assuming both operations and ownership will likely be on the table during the course of repairs, he said the city of Jacksonville may not be agreeable to turning over such a valuable commodity. It is too early to speculate on the projected costs associated with such a transfer or a potential revenue stream for Jacksonville Beach, noted Steffopoulos. The project will cost an estimated $8 million, which will be paid for by insurance, the federal government and the city of Jacksonville.
“That is probably something that could be on the table, but having the ownership means also having the fiscal responsibility for any of the repairs any time there is damage,” he said. “The pier is definitely an asset to the community, but it is also an asset to the region.”