No money to replace St. Augustine Beach pier if it's damaged by storm

Landmark still stands strong after 2 hurricanes battered coastline in last year

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – After two hurricanes battered the Northeast Florida coastline in the last year, signs of destruction are still easy to spot in parts of coastal St. Johns County. But one landmark that is still standing strong after Irma is the St. Augustine Beach pier. 

The St. Johns County Ocean Pier on St. Augustine Beach is structurally sound and is 10-15 years away from reaching its lifespan, county officials said. But should the pier get wiped out by a storm before then, the county has no money to rebuild it, which would cost $10-14 million.

The pier, which many call a landmark in the area, is a popular spot for locals and visitors. Mike Damavoletes visits from Lake City to fish, relax and enjoy the view.

"I think they should find a way to keep this pier because everybody enjoys coming on this pier. This is St. Augustine. This is what people come here for -- to come to this pier," Damavoletes told News4Jax on Friday. 

Sandy Frischemeier lives in St. Augustine and finds herself out at the beach several times a month.

She said the county needs to give more thought to infrastructure and slow the county’s growth before its natural beauty and landmarks are wiped away.

"This needs to be one of the spaces that should be addressed and taken care of before everything is gone that made St. Augustine what it was to me 31 years ago, and made me want to retire here two years ago," she said. 

The St. Johns County administrator send News4Jax the following statement: 

We understand the desire to continue having an ocean-front pier, however in these financially constrained times it is simply not among the County’s highest priorities when considered in conjunction with other county-wide needs, especially those related to public health, safety, and welfare.”

The county said it offered to give the city of St. Augustine Beach both the pier and the parking lot.

News4Jax was told the city is interested in the lot but politely declined the pier due to the expense of maintaining and replacing it.

This week during a city commission meeting, however, commissioners and the mayor discussed the possibility of a public-private partnership. So it appears there is a desire to find a way to keep the pier.

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