JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The most recognizable landmark in Jacksonville Beach is getting closer to some much-needed repairs and News4Jax got a first look at the plans.
The Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier has been damaged since 2016, when Hurricane Matthew took off about half of the 1,300-foot structure. A year later, Hurricane Irma caused even more damage.
The pier was partially reopened last year after a construction team made repairs to the first 625 feet, but the full rebuilding project hasn't started. The pier is run by the city of Jacksonville, and city leaders said contractors must submit their bids by July 24 to try to get their hands on the project.
Visitors said the last part of the pier remains an eyesore and work needs to be done as soon as possible. Josie Jungco fishes the pier with her husband about five days a week.
"People are complaining because they cannot go further out. All the fish are out there," Jungco said while pointing to the deeper waters.
"This should have been fixed by now," said William Kennedy, a fisherman. "As a matter of fact, they could have torn this one down and put a new one in."
On Friday, city leaders allowed News4Jax to look over the plans to repair and rebuild the structure. The proposal consisted of two booklets with more than 700 pages from city engineers, including blueprints and guidelines for potential contractors who have about a month to submit their bids for the job.
"The boys would greatly appreciate going out further and just having deeper waters to go and catch fish," said Kaitlyn O'Leary, who was visiting with her family from central Georgia.
Sam Mousa, Jacksonville's chief administrative officer, said the newest section will be built stronger and higher. A ramp will make it 8 feet taller at the end so that it can be more wave resistant.
The project will cost a little more than $9 million, he said, adding that 75% of the funding will come from the federal government while the remaining 25% will be an even split between the city and the state.
"People love the pier," said Rory Diamond, who will represent the beaches on Jacksonville's City Council starting July 1. "It's time to get back on the end of this pier. We need to get this thing open. Let's roll."
He said getting the pier up and running is a top priority. Current city plans have construction starting in September or October and finishing 18 months later.
"We're going to make sure that it is done, that it's done right and that it is done quickly," Diamond said. "That's my job, and we're going to do it."
There's been speculation that the pier could get some upgrades, such as a restaurant, bar or other entertainment. City leaders said that will not happen. The state permit for the site doesn't allow for anything like that off the oceanwalk.
The partial pier is open seven days a week. Admission is $1 for walkers and $3 for people who are fishing.