The Flagler Beach pier as you’ve known it is over. The Flagler Beach City Commission Thursday evening agreed to condemn the rickety structure, a large part of which was lost to Hurricane Ian, larger parts of which were left more hazardous by the storm, and most of which is no longer safe to walk on.
The pier will remain walled off, with a more blunt barrier to go up soon close to the A-frame. The Bait shop and the Funky pelican restaurant are not affected. The city studied whether to repair the pier and reopen it for as long as possible before it must be demolished anyway ahead of the construction of a new pier. That proved cost-prohibitive.
If the pier were to be made safe, it would cost “somewhere between $1.7 and $2 million,” Chad Lyner, an engineer with Mott MacDonald, a city consultant, said. “You would take about a four month time period for design, a month for bidding, a month for contract procurement, and then another seven or eight months of repair, so you’re looking at somewhere between 12 and 14 months just to be able to get the pier back up.” But the pier was to be demolished inside that time window.
Instead, the timetable of the pier’s demolition will be accelerated, with more immediate demolition of 125 to 150 feet of the more dangerous east end of the pier ahead.
“The pier should remain closed and not allow for public access no farther than the existing plastic entry gate adjacent to the bait station,” Lyner said. “The only access that should be allowed to the corner of the lifeguard building where a four-foot barricade wall should be constructed, shall be a maximum of 10 city employees. And that is the yellow line that stretches between the plastic entry gate and the new barricade wall that will be constructed at the eastern edge of the lifeguard buildings.” The reason: the pier l;ost between 3 and 7 feet of sand below the surface, and up to 12 feet in “pockets” at the eastern end of the pier. So the piles is far less supported, or braced, by supportive sand. “That is the reason why the pier should remain closed at this current time.” (Lyner oversaw a Mott MacDonald report that outlined the pier’s damage and that was first reported here on Monday. See: “Report Describes Flagler Beach Pier as ‘Unsafe’ and Partly in Ruins, Calling for Keeping It Off Limits.”)
The city is piecing together the money, the permits and the timetable to demolish the pier and build a new, 800-foot concrete pier in its place, a project that the new pier’s project manager said could be completed three years from now.
“I think it can be done in approximately, maybe, maybe, 14 to 16 months, I think is a very it’s very doable,” said Gabe Smith, a senior civil and coastal engineer and project manager with Moffatt & Nichol, the designer of the new pier. He was referring to the construction period only. Design, permitting and bidding will more than double that time. “I do think that three years from where we’re at now to a finish product is certainly a realistic target to shoot for. And we’re going to do everything we can on the engineering design side and on the permitting side to try to accelerate that schedule. And then of course, with construction, we’re going to try to design something that’s going to be buildable, and that’s also going to help improve that schedule as well.”
The new pier’s cost, now estimated at between $15 to $18 million, will be covered by Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA, reimbursements for damages incurred from Hurricane Matthew and Ian. At least that’s the assumption the city is going on, having already taken in a portion of the money from Hurricane Matthew payments.
But Many questions remain unanswered. It’s not yet known how much demolition will cost, or whether that cost is included in FEMA reimbursements. Lyner said an “abbreviated” or speeded-up timetable to demolish the pier “will be covered–probably–under the contract that will be for the pier replacement.” It’s not yet known when demolition can begin. That, too, requires significant permitting. It’s not yet known when the series of regulatory steps necessary ahead of building the new pier will begin. It’s not yet known whether the bait shop can be kept open without incurring losses.
“It’s stuff he has to work out, it’s not up to us,” City Commissioner Jane Mealy said of those timetables, a reference to City manager William Whitson.
Whitson is very good at drawing up task lists. His ability to execute the tasks without blaming others when falling short has not sparkled equally. He now faces the biggest challenge of his tenure, coming off a year that saw some commissioners questioning his ability to stay on task, meet deadlines and keep them sufficiently informed when problems develop. On Thursday evening, Whitson projected confidence but had few hard-numbered answers.
“That’s one of their very first tasks is what’s the schedule,” Whitson said. “The second task is what the budget is. And then the third task is the design. And we’ll be talking about all of those things.” Permitting will be the critical path between now and the bidding process.
The pier project will define Whitson’s tenure. He can no longer use the phrase he’s worn to threads since his arrivals, every time problems have arisen: “That was before my time.” The pier reconstruction is his time, and city commissioners’ reputations will hinge on his management of it.
For commissioners, the most immediate concerns are the now clear and present dangers the pier poses to anyone in its vicinity–dangers far more pronounced than assumed in the speculative days after Hurricane Ian, when it looked broken and shaken, but still standing. According to Commissioner Eric Cooley, former City Manager Larry Newsom had predicted that, even with $1 million post-Matthew and Irma repairs to the pier, it would not survive another storm. He was right.
“This is now a safety hazard,” Cooley said. “There shouldn’t be any logical discussion about even anything else. They can’t go on it. Heck, our city staff can’t even go on. But because it is so [unsafe], that needs removed, and it needs removed sooner than later, because you’re going to be getting in the noreaster season, you’re going to have sections continuing to break off, and you’re going to be a hazard to residents, you’re going to be a hazard to marine traffic, all kinds of other issues. And under a state of emergency, that’s the type of thing that this would call for us to get that address, the same way you would any walkover or anything else that gets destroyed.”
“The only question I have is whether that would be a reimbursable cost or not,” Whitson said.
Lyner said dangling sections of pier at the far eastern end need to be removed for safety, and the very end of the pier needs to be stabilized. That means a needed, immediate removal of “somewhere around 150 feet” from the eastern end of the pier. That’s could be limited to 125 feet, Lyner said, for the safety of swimmers. Swimmers or surfers must be kept away from the end of the pier, and especially from pulling and tugging on dangling lines or debris that could provoke a catastrophic and potentially life-threatening collapse of additional sections.
“So there’s two concerns. One of course is, we’ve killed the electric going out there, so that when people grab those lines, hopefully they don’t get shocked,” Whitson said. “The second part is obviously removing the shaky pieces that the two bents he mentioned, and the third piece is having a dive team go and scour the bottom and remove all of the boards with nails and and other kinds of hazards that are in the water.”
The city is worried about liability. “I know that if people are really wanting to do it, they’re going to do it, but I think we would be less liable if at least we put something out there if we could,” Commissioner Jane Mealy said.
As one option, Lyner said a form of buoyed barrier could be lined around the pier to keep people away, but Cooley called it “throwing good money after bad,” and that it would be “completely ineffective” with swimmers and surfers taking to the water even in hurricane conditions.
“It’s an open and obvious hazard,” City Attorney Drew Smith said, in answer to whether the city has liability. “The more we do to put people on notice, yes, the better, but I don’t think anybody can claim I didn’t realize that that was a hazardous situation.”
As for the section of pier closest to the A-frame, the bait shop, the restaurant, all that appears safe, for now. But even that assumption has not been verified. “From what we understand the pier portion is structurally sound in that area that is closest to the dunes, that has the [Funky] Pelican adjacent to it,” said Gabe Smith, the engineer with Moffatt & Nichol. That was based on his review of the Mott MacDonald report, not on first-hand analysis. He noted: “We’re also going to have a structural inspection team here next week, that is going to be taking a look at if there are any potential reinforcements that are necessary in that first portion as well. We’ll have that report here in the coming weeks.”
Other issues: residents are going to want their piece of the old pier, raising matters of conservation. But that issue, raised by Cooley, was not yet addressed.
And the city, with Commission Chairman Ken Bryan especially pushing that approach, is considering ways to keep the bait shop open, at least on a trial basis, as long as it’s not kept open for the sake of keeping it open–at a loss. “It’s just a matter of, can the sales cover labor, and if they can, perfect. If they can’t, then then we’re going to have to take a look at–is this smart.”
For all the unanswered questions, Thursday’s discussion was largely upbeat, because it was intended primarily to decide whether to close the pier for good, and to set out a very broad framework over the months and years ahead, not to give specific numbers just yet. The county’s tourism director added to what cheer at the pier could be salvaged by revealing the results of a brainstorming session she had with her staff about how to make the coming months and years without a pier not only more bearable, but happily commemorative.
Lukasik is following up on a proposal by Commissioner James Sherman to turn the pier barrier into an art wall that could also double up as a photo-op area. She is proposing to keep the pier area a cultural and tourism focal points while it’s closed and during construction. Students in the county could be encouraged to write “odes” to the pier, recalling their memories, while a “pier through the years” concept would be developed with the nearby Flagler Beach museum, showing the history of the pier, its many storm encounters, its repeated Lazarus acts. She is proposing ways to involve restaurants, children and artists in the commemoration, with events set up by the pier–all ideas the commission welcomed and expects to see through a more formal presentation in the future.
It would be nice if those who had purchased an inscribed board on the old pier could get it back for nostalgia’s sake! Also how about selling off pieces as memorabilia, and to raise money for the reconstruction?
Yes that was discussed and seems like it makes sense
Finally some common sense and intelligent money management has been used. Seems like they paid serious attention to all of us who were against the original idea as written in a previous article.
“…Lukasik is following up on a proposal by Commissioner James Sherman to turn the pier barrier into an art wall that could also double up as a photo-op area. She is proposing to keep the pier area a cultural and tourism focal points while it’s closed and during construction. Students in the county could be encouraged to write “odes” to the pier, recalling their memories, while a “pier through the years” concept would be developed with the nearby Flagler Beach museum, showing the history of the pier, its many storm encounters, its repeated Lazarus acts. She is proposing ways to involve restaurants, children and artists in the commemoration, with events set up by the pier–all ideas the commission welcomed and expects to see through a more formal presentation in the future. ”
OK, I did say I really wasn’t going to comment on anything here again… but this is TOO absurd to pass on. It’s a pier, it’s gone… move on.
I was “moved” by seeing the old pier twenty years ago… heck, I even painted it a few times… but “odes?”
A large bronze placard with a picture or a relief of the pier with an historical note like… “Here once stood the historic wooden Flagler pier, the longest and oldest surviving example of its era, which finally succumbed to the ravages of time and sea in the year of our Lord 2022…” should suffice in my opinion.
Hey, before final removal of the last few yards perhaps a fireworks display from a barge is in order, followed by a planned explosive demolition or controlled burn of the remaining structure? Sorta like a “Burning Man” event (of course the general public should be discouraged from bring their own tiki torches). Could be a real real blast!… Just think of the tourist dollars.
Seriously though, can some elements of the new pier be constructed of brown, wood-textured concrete? Might help some folks cope with the loss and give it a unique look. Just my opinion.
“… (of course the general public should be discouraged from bring their own tiki torches). …”
And chants of “We WILL replace you.”
The dude says
They’ll still have to run the gauntlet of the MAGAt crazies to get there though.
Yeah. And you would think they’d have given-up the ghost now that Sally’s Ice Cream is under new management.
Geesh… from what I’ve read, with the prices they were charging it was bound to happen anyway… no need to get your Trump-brand underoos all in a knot about it.
Peaches McGee says
There are many citizens who don’t believe in science and will blame this on a soon-to-be named politician.
Let the comments begin!
Concerned Citizen says
Looking at this picture and all the other ones this was a no brainer.
Why even consider temporary repairs with this much damage? Only to be torn down in a few months. Stop throwing money away.
thus town has deep pockets, how about a ped bridge to nowhere for 5.9 m
I was at the meeting and asked numerous questions and really didn’t get any good answers.
One was how are the new meters working and have we seen any savings as promised. Guess not since they didn’t have that information and discussed raising water rates .
At the meeting 2weeks ago a comment was made about the garbage pad and the effects of Ian so I asked the question to please go into more detail, only to be told the contractor will be doing additional work but no cost was discussed ( why not. ) I believe most of us agree this was overpriced .
I also asked about a topic that’s been discussed for over 18 months about the dune protection sand fence or a post & rope system, they responded no we can’t do it’s an FDOT issue . How about we’ll look into and yes our dunes need something.
I also asked about a gentleman at the emergency meeting who questioned if there was a plan or schedule for the walkovers to be repaired. Mr. Whitson said was not yet so I asked again to be told maybe next meeting we will have a better idea. 80% of the walkovers were destroyed leaving most South residents with no access to our beaches .I can’t imagine all of them need engineering to be fixed
My final question any news on the Army Corps sand replacement and asked if we can have the County Attorney give us an update next meeting .Only to be called by the county attorney Al and he asked were did I come come up with my 40 days left to get the last hold out signed . He stated that someone from Flagler Beach office or Commissioner called to tell him I have been asking these questions at every meeting .Let me refresh the memories of the so called caller. I stated 2 weeks ago the deadline was December 31 ,so take out holidays & weekends that leaves 50 days to December 31 . Yesterday 2 weeks later 40 days are remaining if you think the government works holidays and weekends what planet do you live on .
Why is it never said I’ll look into it , good question, maybe something can be done but it seems it’s always No or I wasn’t here then ,very frustrating. Flagler Beach residents please get involved
tom dooley says
When are you running for commissioner? Heard there will be an opening this spring?
3 years to build a new pier ? I know things move slowly in Flagler but the Empire State building didn’t take that long to construct.
Well let’s see, pier is gone, with the red tape involved will take at least 4 to 5 years for a rebuild, nothing really to see over that bridge now, gave up on all the over priced burger joints years ago, soooo let’s go to another town to fish.
I’m still against the new pier going in the same location. They know there is erosion issues that still exist. The concrete pier was 1.5 million in other recent articles. Guess the Biden inflation is now $ 15-18 million. Putting the new pier there seems to be similar to what Jacksonville experienced with their pier projects over the last 10-15 years. St Augustine’s pier as well has been demolished & replaced south of Anastasia Park. Where there is adequate beach foundation that makes sense. Where Flagler pier currently is located, that beach head is eroding to a situation where the sidewalk & A1A will be wash away with future storms. The Atlantic Ocean is too much of a planet Earth force that the science & engineering “experts” (and I sarcastically use the term experts there) have been wrong and delusional, selling pipe dreams of building the indestructible pier.
At what point is retreating going to be the right call, because right now condemning the pier & demolition is the right call. Rebuilding it there is back to the same foolish attempt to cling to Flagler pier as it once was over the past century. I’m all for preserving history, but reality is this is Flagler Beach clinging to the pier as a Tourism draw that will disappear eventually anyway. That location is no longer a sufficient beach head to construct any pier. The one saying otherwise needs to guarantee that the next pier that washes away, comes out of the engineering firm’s pocket, no bankruptcy protections. If the experts aren’t willing to do that, you know they are full of crap. Do these links look & sound familiar ?
Josh E says
Oh gosh no to Bruno running for Commissioner. That would be a mistake. Sorry
Why who is he & heard he’s a stand up guy
Whatever they do it will be gone when the first hurricane in 2026 hits it.
I would absolutely love to have a piece of the pier and we gladly pay for it, I am sure many people feel the same way.
Gabe Athouse says
When did this happen ??
Stavros Halkias says
Who would have done this to our pier and why?