City closes damaged fishing pier

— City officials are considering what to do about a two-foot gap at the approach of a fishing pier on Lake Bellevue.

The city council last week ordered the pier closed pending estimates for repairs. Board members worried someone could be injured attempting to jump over the break to get onto the pier from the lake bank. The structure is near the Ross Norton Recreation and Aquatic Complex & Extreme Sports Park, 1426 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.

Residents brought their concerns to Councilman Bill Jonson during a recent neighborhood association meeting. They also said the new nature trail doesn’t circle the lake.

City staff attributed the gap between land and pier to a recent stormwater project, which expanded the lake to contain more water runoff, and the trail installation, which elevated the embankment.

The pier is in “excellent shape,” Jonson said. That led him to ask, “What do we do with it?”

“Our recommendation is to remove the pier because it is rarely used” and doesn’t meet accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Kevin Dunbar, parks and recreation director. Materials from the pier could be salvaged.

Dunbar offered two other options: connecting the pier to the trail with a hard path or ramp, or rebuilding the pier to align it with the trail elevation. However, both alternatives would require meeting ADA mandates, which could cost $50,000 to $55,000. Outside funding to cover the expense may be difficult to garner, he said.

Calling the pier a “nice amenity,” Councilman Jay Polglaze voiced disappointment that the stormwater and trail projects failed to address the issue with the pier’s approach or ensure the trail circled the lake.

The city doesn’t own all the land around the lake, Dunbar explained. “That’s why the path doesn’t go all the way around it.” However, future plans call for the trail to connect to the Pinellas Trail.

Councilman Hoyt Hamilton suggested raising the pier to match the bank’s elevation. “I’m not a construction expert,” he said, “but it may be a less expensive option.”

The majority of the council members agreed at the work session that if the pier is left unrepaired, the potential safety hazard creates liability for the city.

“That is the basis of the city manager’s recommendation,” Assistant City Manager Jill Silverboard replied. We need to do one or the other” — remove the pier or bring it into ADA compliance. “We can’t leave the status quo.”

Mayor George Cretekos asked city staff to pursue estimates on the cost of Hamilton’s suggestion to raise the pier to match the lake bank and along with council, directed staff to cordon off the pier.

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