Much of the Surfside Pier will likely be reopened to visitors after the town removes a portion on the end that has been deemed structurally unsafe.
Approximately 300 feet of the pier were ripped off during Hurricane Matthew last October, and the town has been working with Charleston-based Collins Engineers as it determines the design and build for the new pier.
The engineers, who have completed a survey of the remaining structure with scuba divers, have decided that a 24-by-36-foot section of the end of the pier is unstable enough that it has to be removed entirely. The town plans to extend the area where it allows visitors to walk, however, Surfside Beach Mayor Bob Childs said.
Currently, the pier is gated just a short distance from businesses on the wooden structure: Surf Diner, Pier Outfitters and Licks Ice Cream Shoppe.
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Bob Donaldson, who has worked at the ice cream shop and outfitters store for four years, said more than 50 people crowded onto the small ungated portion of pier a few nights ago.
“Without a shadow of a doubt … reminiscing is what they want to do,” Donaldson said.
“I’ve had older people cry,” he added.
Pier Outfitters’ fishing rental business had been dead since the pier was closed, and the attached ice cream shop has suffered as well, because many people used to buy an ice cream cone and then walk on the pier, Donaldson said.
Curtis Kremer, the owner of the outfitters shop and the ice cream store, said that his business is down 30 percent year to date.
Gary DenBraven, a Surfside resident who has fished off of the town’s pier for 43 years, said his group of eight friends now meet at the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier like many other Surfside anglers. Though more walking space will be opened up, fishing off the pier will likely still not be allowed.
“It’s too bad, because we probably could fish flounder right off the end [at high tide],” DenBraven said.
Childs said Monday that the town has no update on when the pier may be finished. Previously, officials have said construction could stretch to 2019.
As for the next step, Childs said, “We’re waiting to hear from the engineers on a damage assessment.”
He said the new structure is likely to be all wood, and that it will probably be the same length as the old pier.
On Monday, “no swimming” flags were posted a few hundred feet out from the pier in either direction as workers from MKT General Contracting dropped large chunks of boardwalk into the water and then hauled them onto the sand with ropes. Spectators waded in the water just a few yards away, and some helped haul in wooden boards.
The town is paying $7,440 for the removal, according to WPDE.
Donaldson said he suspected the larger group of businesses on the east side of Kings Highway are all being impacted by the pier. Several area piers have struggled to recover after last fall’s hurricane.
“It’s an enormous amount of money for us,” he said.