The smell of fresh fish, salt in the air, smiling faces, warm breeze, children laughing – these were all common elements found in decades past at what had been dubbed the “City Pier” on Panama City Beach. Located a couple miles east of Highway 79, the City Pier used to be called Dan Russell Municipal Pier, but has since found a new name. But, we’ll get to that in a moment.
After 16 months of construction, the new County Pier is open to the public for spectators and anglers alike. Located right off Alf Coleman Road (the road that Shipwreck Island is on), the new M.B Miller Pier is three times as long as it’s predecessor and exactly mirrors the new Russel Fields Pier across from Pier Park.
Last summer, on the Fourth of July weekend, the new Russell Fields Pier opened – also known as the City Pier in Panama City Beach. And while this year, the Russel Fields Pier, across from Pier Park is all set to open the much anticipated amenities, the County Pier 2 miles east is preparing to open. On schedule for their first day of operations on July 4th, this summer will be one pier better than last giving local and visiting anglers alike a new place to throw a line.
The projected construction timeline for the new County Pier located just west of Alf Coleman Road is around 16 months, barring no unexpected obstacles present themselves. The design is exactly the same as the new Russell-Fields pier located right across from Pier Park. Alf Coleman Road is the road the Shipwreck Island Waterpark is on, and it runs almost directly into Sterling Reef Condominiums on the Gulf of Mexico.
Construction began in March of this year with the concrete ramp that leads up to the portion of the pier that extends out into the water already complete. The next milestone is expected in October when they should have the “mid”-section complete by.
The totall cost of this pier will be $7.6 million with FEMA picking up $3 million of the tab. Completion is expected to be June of 2010.
Since apparently I’m all about people having to pay more for stuff, you would think that I would agree with Bay County deciding to charge the same fee as Panama City Beach did (and will in the future) for using the pier – and you would actually be correct. However, not at first.
I’ll be frank, the only real objection I have to paying a fee at a place like this is because I’m not usually carrying cash. I don’t remember if they accepted credit cards, but who likes to charge a dollar anyway. Plus, who wants to pay $6 just to take the wife and kids out to the end of the pier for 10 minutes on the remote chance that we’ll actually see a fish that is radical enough to entertain the kids. I mean, seriously, $6 for something that I’ve already paid for through being a tax-payer?
But, the reality of the situation is that the tax dollars that I’ve put towards (or actually will put towards in the future as I’m sure this was financed through bonds) our new pier(s) is actually going to the construction, not the upkeep. An article in the paper this morning quoted Mike Thomas as stating that Bay County has never run a pier, they just built M.B. Miller Pier and let it run down. This brings up an interesting point.
Why did I never go to the county pier years ago even though there is tons of space and could be a perfect place for families to hang what with all the setting areas, boardwalks and wide open spaces? *pause* Because it was scary. That’s right, I said it – SCARY. With the fees, the county would be able to pay for running operating expenses, such as security and pay staff to be onsite. Now, I know what some of you are thinking – Eliminate the fees and pay for the running costs with other county fees, just reallocate, adjust budgets in other categories or fire a couple unneeded people. I know, I know, sounds like a great idea, but you know that the county doesn’t work that way, in fact what municipality does? You can’t expect government to pay for something NOT directly associated with it.
So, with that said, knowing that the money can’t come from anywhere else, I totally agree with the usage fee. I want both piers to be on an equal playing field and I want to be able to use either one safely. Do I like paying the fee? Not really, but it isn’t because I’m always broke, its more of just an inconvenience, but I’ll find a few bucks if I want to go to the pier, as long as there will be tons of other people there enjoying it with their families and not a bunch of punk drunks.
The twin county and city piers, dubbed M.B. Miller and Dan Russell, respectively will be identical, measuring 1.500 feet long. The cost is a little more than they style pier that was there before, but they are designed to sustain damage in a more efficient way in order to minimize the cost of repair in the future.
The fees for access to the pier are $5 per adult fisherman, $2 per child fisherman and $1 if you just want to watch.
With progress being made in leaps and bounds, the city pier is on target to be completed first part of 2009. Originally estimated to be around 6 months behind the city pier, the county pier project is now scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2010, more than 12 months behind the city pier.
The city pier is well under way with absolutely no activity at the county pier. The last time I posted, I had mentioned that the county pier was to be a few months behind the city but it looks like that is a little off schedule.
Check after the break for more pictures.