Gulf State Park Pier still in play for late summer completion

New addition includes viewing deck above fishing octagon

BY TREVOR RITCIHE
Reporter
trevor@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 4/2/24

Gulf State Park recently provided a number of updates regarding progress made on the pier repair project over the last few months.

The park's Facebook page announced that all pilings have been …

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Gulf State Park Pier still in play for late summer completion

New addition includes viewing deck above fishing octagon

Posted

Gulf State Park recently provided a number of updates regarding progress made on the pier repair project over the last few months.

The park's Facebook page announced that all pilings have been placed and tapped in, all caps have been installed on top of the pilings, and the installation of girders is currently being completed. The Gulf State Park Pier needs repairs after sustaining significant damage in September 2020 as Hurricane Sally made a direct hit, leaving roughly a 200-foot stretch collapsed near its octagon — an untimely event after just undergoing a $2.4 million renovation. Construction on the pier was not started until November 2023.

"We're very well pleased that this part was completed and in the time manner it was completed in," said Lamar Pendergrass, South Region operations supervisor for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). "It's kind of like opening a present not knowing what to expect. Now that we do have access to the octagon, we were able to get pictures and see some of the things that we didn't know were cosmetically damaged and are going to be in need of repair."

In response, plans were put in place to address some of the existing cracked pilings and damaged girders that had yet to be evaluated. Once that is completed, the wood panels and railings will be installed. The ADCNR stated that MD Thomas Construction will also be reusing a large portion of the ipe panels that were gathered in the hurricane's aftermath. MD Thomas, the same contractor that completed the previous pier renovation, was awarded the job at $13.6 million in June 2023 once the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed to provide funds for repairs.

"Those panels are breakaways," Pendergrass said. "With high water and wind, once the water starts to push the panels, they're designed to fall away. We even found panels after the water receded close to seven miles from the park. That's how far the water had carried them in the Gulf. We did take all the ipe panels that weren't damaged, and [MD Thomas Construction] is reusing the ipe as a cost savings for both them and us on the completion of the pier."

One of the newer additions to the pier is a deck placed 10-15 feet above the octagon for people to sightsee and watch the fishermen below without having to be directly among them. While the deck itself shows no damage outside of needing to be cleaned, the elevator that was installed to provide access to the deck for ADA purposes is now feared to be a total loss. Until late March, the elevator had not been assessed for damage.

Although total loss has not yet been confirmed, Pendergrass noted it could be something eventually discussed with FEMA. Nonetheless, expectations remain that the original completion timeline will stay intact. No additional days have been needed as an extension of the contract thus far, therefore the ADCNR reassured in talking with MD Thomas it anticipates completion "sometime toward the end of summer."