Cay Fitzsimmons wore a big smile Monday as she strode briskly along the 2,000-foot-long Ocean Beach Pier, open for the first time in more than a year.
Fitzsimmons, who runs a gift shop on nearby Newport Avenue, was relishing the walk, the kind she had taken daily before the weather-damaged landmark was closed 14 months ago for repairs.
“It’s like going to see your shrink,” she said.
The pier was opened officially at 8 a.m. with a ceremony marking the completion of the city’s $1.9-million restoration project. Although the sunny morning gave way to cold winds and overcast skies, several hundred people were still milling on the pier in the afternoon.
Some, like Fitzsimmons, sought the peace of the ocean, leaning against the newly replaced wooden railings and gazing meditatively out to sea. Others were on a family outing to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday. Yet others were intent on catching dinner.
The T-shaped pier has served fishermen and residents since it was built in 1966. The concrete pier has proved more durable than it’s wooden counterparts, such as the Imperial Beach Pier and Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, both of which lost sections to large winter storms in 1983.
The Ocean Beach pier has been closed during some storms, but the only obvious damage has been several feet of railing ripped off by high waves. However, the cumulative effect of the storms, combined with constant tidal action, pounding surf and corrosion, have weakened the structure.
“With the exception of emergency repairs made during the storm of 1983, nothing has been done to extend the life of the pier,” Councilman Ron Roberts said in a recent statement. “There is no question that, had this work not been done, the pier would have become a major safety problem in the very near future.”
Roberts represents the Ocean Beach area and led the effort to secure money for the project.
Most of the money, which came from local funds and a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board, was used to reinforce and repair the structure, the statement said. A new security gate and improvements to public restrooms to make them more accessible to the handicapped also were added.
The project should make the pier safe for another 25 years, Roberts said.
Fitzsimmons said she hopes the reopening of the pier will help bring business back to the area, which she said has been in a slump ever since the pier closed.
Wayne Eck, 26, heard over the radio that the pier would reopen, and immediately notified his three fishing partners.
He hoped that fishing from the pier would be good because it had been closed so long. But, after a couple hours of fishing--using squid, bloodworms, mackerel and anchovies as bait--all he and his buddies had caught was a baby shark, which they threw back.
“I got desperate, so I went down and got some fish tacos,” he said, adding salsa to his food, “so I’m guaranteed to have some fish today.”
Eck said he feels safer on the pier than before the repairs were made. He said he sometimes ran from sections of the pier when they would begin rocking in heavy surf.
Nearby, a pelican curled its clumsy webbed feet around the edge of the wooden railing as children tossed him pieces of fish. And a couple strolled arm in arm down the pier.
“I thought the pier looked really new,” said Dean Hanlin, who last visited the pier two years ago, as he held his girlfriend, Lora Bates, closely in the cold wind.
“This is the most romantic he gets,” she said, explaining that she has been trying to get him to go for a walk on the beach for a long time. Then the couple saw others walking on the pier and decided to join them.