ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – One of the most iconic landmarks in St. Johns County could be in jeopardy as a lack of funding has county officials questioning how they will pay for the St. Augustine Beach Pier in the years ahead.
The pier, which was completed in 1939, isn’t going anywhere right now. Even after Hurricane Matthew hit the county hard and damaged the pier, it’s back up and running.
But officials told News4Jax on Tuesday that the funding just isn’t there for the pier's future maintenance.
“I don't know where we would be without this pier,” St. Augustine Beach resident Joey Wages said. “There's a lot of people that come out here to be calm. They come out here with their girlfriends. They come out here with their wives. There's a lot of people that like to come out here, and they like to fish.”
But St. Johns County officials said around $10 million to $14 million of funding is needed over the next 10 years to keep the pier open, and that's money the county doesn't have.
A county representative said Tuesday that if a hurricane destroyed the pier tomorrow, there would be no money to rebuild it.
Palm Coast resident Taylor Brown and her mother took advantage of the pier’s wheelchair accessibility Tuesday and said if the pier goes away, the impact will be huge.
“I'll probably end up really depressed, because this is the only way that I get to see the beach,” Brown said. “It makes me forget about being sick, and it makes me relax, and it just makes me happier.”
Out-of-state visitors also want the pier to stay where it is.
“We love it. It's wonderful. It's not ever too crowded,” said Carol Galyon, who was visiting from Seymour, Tennessee. “Sometimes you have a problem parking, but I do understand that, because there's so many people that come down here.”
The county said that for now, the pier isn’t going anywhere, but a decade from now that might not be the case.
“I would do anything, just about anything, to keep this pier running,” Wages said.
The county spokesperson said officials are looking at a number of options for funding the pier, including potentially raising taxes. He said that’s not a popular option, but it is on the table.