The Fort Clinch pier in Fernandina Beach, Florida has been closed since damage was inflicted by Hurricane Matthew on October 7, 2016. Replacing the pier (by far, the longest pier in the state of Florida at 2,409 feet), is listed in “Fort Clinch 10-Year Plan Proposed Improvements” (see summary from the draft plan further below). News of the possible lengthy timeframe to replace the pier was a jolt to some in the local community.
Will the eventual replacement pier at Fort Clinch be as long as its predecessor? Unfortunately, being able to walk as far out over the water as the existing pier could be a thing of the past, especially if funds are lacking. It remains to be seen when sufficient dollars will become available and directed to the pier project — it’s in the hands of the state. Many hope that’s sooner rather than later, and doesn’t take up to 10 years.
Public Input Period Ends March 30, 2017
There’s a small window to offer feedback about Fort Clinch State Park and its pier (deadline March 30, 2017), to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks. After engineering inspections, it was revealed at a public meeting held March 15th in Fernandina Beach that the intention is to demolish the pier by the end of June 2017. A preliminary estimate to just take the existing pier down is reportedly $2 million. As way of background, the pier was closed from November 2007 through 2008 for renovations, and reopened in January 2009 after a $2 million “overhaul project.”
As a large property on a relatively small island, the popular Fort Clinch State Park covers a sizable portion of Amelia Island’s north end with its expanse from the riverfront to the oceanfront, and has been especially enjoyed by generations of Nassau County, FL and nearby Camden County, GA residents. This State Park is the largest, most natural area remaining on Amelia Island and one of the top places enjoyed by visiting tourists and local residents alike.
Pier Not Just For Fishing
While called the “fishing” pier, the structure has been an important resource not just for fishing. For the pure enjoyment of visiting the park and taking a leisurely walk, the pier has been a premier place to absorb a wonderful panoramic waterfront view and feel a sea breeze above the water on a hot Florida summer day.
The pier is one of the best spots on Amelia Island for observing wintering, migratory seabirds. While the elevation and length of the existing pier allowed fishermen to get way out over the water, it also allowed bird watchers to observe various species along the pier and the perspective looking down from the pier to see birds congregating along the jetty rocks parallel to the pier. Fort Clinch is known as the “gateway” to the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Replacing the pier is in the Fort Clinch 10-Year Plan Proposed Improvements (summary from draft plan below).
See the full 202-page Fort Clinch draft management report online at www.fldeptnet.org. Note that page 106 in the PDF file states, “In the event that the pier needs to be removed in its entirety, the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks will replace the pier as funding becomes available.”
Whatever your thoughts on the pier and the park’s other proposed improvements, now’s the time to share your feedback with the Office of Park Planning at Florida DEP. Inform the park system of your views about its 10-year management plan by March 30, 2017 deadline as follows: Call (850) 245-3070 or send an email with the park name “FORT CLINCH” in the subject line to: Tyler.Maldonado@dep.state.fl.us
It’s not clear as to which projects on the list of the park’s intended improvements may take precedence. As far as the manmade structures for recreational use within the park, should the pier top the list? Or do you think other items in the park’s management plan, such as improving the existing campgrounds, adding pavilions, upgrading picnic areas, etc., are more important? It appears the pier will be the biggest and most costly project to complete, and that alone makes it more challenging. Direct comments to Tyler Maldonado as noted above.
Fort Clinch, The Longest Pier in Florida
Some may not have realized that the Fort Clinch pier is the longest in the state of Florida (and was originally built in 1980). While commonly referred to as the “half-mile-long” fishing pier, it was a bit shy of that at 2,409 feet. However, the Fort Clinch pier is 864 feet longer than the next longest pier in Florida located at Navarre Beach, at 1,545 feet. State pier data is published in “Fishing Pier Design Guidance,” a report dated May 2010 from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems.
Learn much more about Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island.