On Thursday Town Councilwoman Karen Woodson told the Lee County Tourist Development Council that the fishing pier on Fort Myers Beach was the #1 tourist destination in all of Lee County. Woodson’s pitch was for Lee County to build a much bigger replacement pier than it appears the county is planning to build now.
The Fort Myers Beach pier, which is owned by Lee County, was totally destroyed by Hurricane Ian. Once a vibrant fishing pier where tourists loved to flock to watch the sunset, it is now a few wooden posts occupied by birds who’ve come to enjoy their own view from the damaged structure left behind by Ian.
Whatever gets rebuilt will take approximately 3-4 years.
Before it was destroyed, the Fort Myers Pier was 560 feet long and 8 feet wide. Through a competitive bid process, Lee County has chosen a company called Stantec to design a new pier. The Lee County Board of Commissioners will vote on accepting or rejecting Stantec in April. Stantec will not be building the new pier. Stantec would be tasked with designing and permitting the structure, not rebuilding it.
FEMA will reimburse Lee County the funds it takes to rebuild the pier, as it was, and most likely include funding to make the structure more resilient against future storms. Lee County has given every indication that the pier will be built back the way it was with the resiliency enhancements. What a final pier will look like, how long or high it will be, is unknown at this time.
A citizens group on Fort Myers Beach called Let’s Go FMB created a pier committee to provide input to the Fort Myers Beach Town Council and Lee County on potential new piers. The group wants Lee County to rebuild a per that is approximately 928 feet long (nearly twice as long as the previous pier) and 22 feet wide (nearly 3X as wide as the previous pier).
That bigger pier would most likely cost a lot more money. The Let’s Go FMB pier committee estimates, in addition to what FEMA would reimburse Lee County to build the pier back the way it was, an addition $8 to $10 million would be needed. Woodson was requesting that money come from the Tourist Development Council.
The Lee County TDC receives its funding from a 5% tax on short-term accommodations in Lee County. The money is to be used to support the Beach & Shoreline Capital Improvement Program. Each year the TDC approves funding for the maintenance of Lee County beaches, for beach renourishment projects, and for beach and shoreline capital projects such as piers, boardwalks, parks and re-vegetation.
Lee County Board Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass chairs the TDC. On Tuesday of this week he said the TDC has $60 million in reserves. On Thursday he said, with Stantec the chosen design and permitting firm, the process is now in motion to rebuild the pier.
No action was taken by the TDC after Woodson’s presentation. It’s unclear what, if anything, happens regarding Let’s Go FMB’s larger pier request. Let’s Go FMB pier committee chair Allan Shanosky has said that Lee County has stopped taking his calls about this project.
One representative from Lee County told Beach Talk Radio Thursday that “We are going to make the pier nice and possibly wider. We already took action (the Stantec bid). They (Let’s Go FMB) are late to the table.”
There has not been a huge outcry for a large pier from local residents as of yet. Residents have not organized at either Let’s Go FMB meetings, Town Council meetings or lee County Board meetings to rally behind a larger pier.