Locals, visitors eagerly await pier reopening

When Connor Yann moved to Brevard County for a new job, one of the first places he wanted to see was Melbourne Beach. And one of the first places in Melbourne Beach he visited was the pier at the end of Ocean Avenue and Riverside Drive.

For good reason, it turns out.

The pier not only offers a pastoral vista of Indian River, but it’s great for fishing and lies adjacent to a riverfront park.

“I heard it was a nice place to visit,” he said as he stood at the foot of the Melbourne Beach Pier looking down the boardwalk to the platform and the two fingers jutting out on each side. He and his friends visiting from Tampa hoped to walk out on the pier, but instead found workmen and barricades, signs that work has commenced to refurbish the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew last fall.

On Feb. 15, the town awarded a contract for the $117,000 repair project to Land and Sea Marine Inc., of Indialantic. The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid 75 percent, with the balance split between Melbourne Beach and the state.

Land and Sea owner David Jacobs said his workers began clearing away the storm debris early last week to make way for the repairs. “We expect the pier to be re-opened by Founder’s Day on May 6, but we’re shooting for even earlier,” he said.

Matthew collapsed the corners of the pier platform and did extensive additional damage. Approximately two thirds of the pier has been off limits as a result. “We allowed the first section [closest to shore] to be utilized because that area was not affected,” said Town Manager, Tim Day.

The finger piers and the platform area are being demolished and will be replaced, with new decking and handrails.

“We have to completely rebuild the north and south sides of the platform,” Jacobs said. “The pilings remain.”

A second phase of work on the pier, after storm repairs are complete, will involve decking and hand rails from the street to the fingers piers along 600-foot stretch of the structure. “The existing deck and handrails are 15 years old and splintering and becoming a maintenance problem,” Day said. “We’re just getting cost estimates.”

The town has applied for a grant from the Florida Inland Navigational District for the second phase. “It will be a 50/50 split if approved,” Day said.

Work is expected to start in the summer.

Despite the barricades that kept Yann and his friends off the pier the day they visited, he admired the view from afar. “It’s gorgeous,” he said.

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