City seeks grant for pier

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2014

CITY OF WASHINGTON | CONTRIBUTED PIER PRESSURE: Not everyone is happy with plans to build the “Peoples Pier” as part of Washington’s waterfront. This plan shows the pier with a T platform.

PIER PRESSURE: Not everyone is happy with plans to build the “Peoples Pier” as part of Washington’s waterfront. This plan shows the pier with a T platform.

Washington is seeking a grant to help pay for a pier at the foot of South Market Street that would extend about 70 feet into the Pamlico River.

That proposal met with opposition during the City Council’s meeting Monday, but the council voted 4-1 for the city to pursue a state grant of $120,000. The city would contribute $30 in cash and in-kind services and/or materials as part of the overall project. The pier project has an estimated cost of $150,000, according the John Rodman, the city’s cultural and community services director.

Council members Bobby Roberson, Richard Brooks, William Pitt and Larry Beeman voted to seek the grant funding. Councilman Doug Mercer voted against seeking the funding. The vote does not commit the city to building the pier.

Several people, during a public hearing on the matter, voiced opposition to the pier. Howard Tanner believes the pier is not appropriate for the waterfront, which, he said, attracted him to the area.

“My personal opinion is we’re just about to put 10 pounds in five-pound bag, as far as the waterfront is concerned. There’s not any waterfront left compared to what it was five years ago, 10 years ago — especially since 1975,” he said.

Tanner also voiced concern about the proposed pier intruding into the navigable channel in the river. Tanner also worries that large crowds that might gather on the pier, if it is built, would face dangers. He also has concerns about the pier being damaged by hurricanes and/or debris in the river generated by major storms.

Karen Tripp said she is “gravely disappointed” in the effort to build the pier, saying she does not believe it is needed or would accomplish want some pier supporters believe it can accomplish — bringing more people into downtown businesses.

“I think it’s just more stuff. I don’t think we need stuff on that beautiful waterfront, and I don’t think people need to walk out on the water,” Tripp said. “They have those lovely rides from the Estuarium. They can go out on one of those boats and go out on the water and everything. There are opportunities.”

Tripp said the presence of the pier would not make any change in downtown’s business activities.

Rebecca Clark, one of the owners of the Little Shoppes of Washington in the city’s downtown area, supports the pier.

“I feel like this pier is a critical part of the economic development for Washington. … I can tell you that 75 percent of my business comes from out of town. That means that everything that we have downtown to encourage someone to come to Little Washington helps my business. That helps me not to be one of those 17 empty buildings that he’s (Tanner) talking about,” Clark said.

Clark said the pier would not detract from the waterfront but enhance it.

“The pier would be a wonderful addition to the waterfront. It will give visitors another reason (to come to Washington). It will look beautiful. People like to be on the water, and not everybody can get in a boat. … It’s just one other way for people to enjoy our beautiful waterfront,” Clark said.

Chris Furlough, president of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, said the pier would not intruded into the navigable channel. He said the pier would enhance visitors’ experiences with the city’s waterfront.

“This was part of the reinvestment strategy (adopted by the city) back in 2009,” Furlough said.

That strategy has brought about Festival Park, public restrooms at Festival Park and the dockmaster’s station (with public restrooms) at the west end of Stewart Parkway, Furlough said. The strategy also calls for a “Peoples Pier” as part of the waterfront experience, he noted.

“The goal here is not to inhibit our waterfront, but our goal here is to provide access to our beautiful resource, which is the river,” Furlough said.

Mercer, who said he is not necessarily opposed to building the pier, voiced “severe reservations” about the process from which the preliminary plans for the pier were developed. He said he received a telephone call from someone asking him about plans proposed pier. Mercer said he was unaware of those plans.

Mercer also questioned if it would not be better to use the grant money being sought for the pier for other “lingering” projects such as the proposed walkway to connect the boat ramps at Havens Gardens to the park area at Havens Gardens. The walkway would traverse under the bridge over Runyon Creek.



Proposed pier details


• Extends 60 to 70 feet from Harding Square.

• Gazebo-like or cabana-style structure in middle of T platform.

• Shelter would be about 20 feet by 20 feet. Shelter would match structures at Festival Park.

• The platform is designed to be 42 feet by 35 feet.

• Walkway is approximately 8 feet wide.

• Pier railings match railings on Stewart Parkway promenade.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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