Tim and Annie Wilson of Chicago celebrate Tim’s birthday on the pier on Clearwater Beach. It costs the couple 50 cents each to walk to the end of the pier. Beginning Oct. 1, the cost goes up to $1.
CLEARWATER – For years it has cost 50 cents to walk out to the end of Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach. That price will double to $1 Oct. 1. Clearwater officials say the increase was long overdue.
“The rates haven’t changed in the 14 years I have been here,” said Harbormaster Bill Morris. “It has been something of a loss leader if you will, it was just something that we hadn’t raised.”
Morris, who is also the director of Clearwater’s Marine and Aviation Department, said costs dictated the increase.
“We just try to remain competitive with the market to be able to provide the revenue back to the city that we can,” he said. “We don’t cover the cost of what it might take to rebuild that, but we do our best to remain competitive with the other piers up and down the coast. We have to keep prices such that people will use it. We watch what everybody else’s rates are.”
Morris said he hasn’t heard much feedback from residents about the fee increase. He said he expects that to change once the rates go into effect.
“I expect to get some complaints when it becomes a reality,” he said. “Some people have grumbled but until they have to reach into their pockets I don’t anticipate hearing a whole lot.”
Who will likely complain the most? Morris said the casual visitor is likely to bear the brunt of the new rate.
“The local folks who go out there on a regular basis probably have a weekly or monthly pass,” he said. “However, somebody who has a number of out of town guests and wants to bring them for a walk on the pier will be hit for sure. They will complain then I’m sure.”
On a bright, sunny afternoon recently a couple from Chicago was strolling on the beach, enjoying the first day of their vacation. Tim and Annie Wilson were on a five-day stay. It was Tim’s birthday and one of their plans was to take a walk on the pier. That is until they discovered it was going to cost them 50 cents to do so.
“The pier was definitely on our to-do list,” said Annie Wilson. “But now we’re not going; we don’t have any change. Who carries money on them when they go for a walk on the beach?”
Tom Wilson wondered why there had to be a charge at all.
“In Chicago we have a pier and there is lots to do on it and it is free,” he said. “It would be nice if it were free here, too.”
When told about the pending increase to a dollar, Annie Wilson was quick to say what effect that would have on their plans.
“We wouldn’t go out there at all in that case,” she said.
Not far away Karl Artt and Victoria Justin, visitors from Northern Ireland, had just come back from a short walk on the pier. They hadn’t gone out far enough to have to pay and in fact were surprised when told they would have had to pay 50 cents to go all the way. They didn’t seem to mind, even when told of the pending increase.
“We loved it out there,” said Justin. “We didn’t go far enough to have to pay but we would if we come back again.”
“A dollar would be OK,” said Artt. “Mind you it would be quite costly for someone coming here every day.”
The increase in rates was approved by the Clearwater City Commission, as does every financial increase over 10 percent. Morris said the ongoing maintenance of the pier has to be paid for somehow.
“Right now the pier is undergoing a midlife extension,” he said. “The entire railing all the way around the pier is being replaced. Right now it is pressure treated lumber which has deteriorated and it is being replaced with new plastic railings.”
Morris said the state-of-the-art in plastic “lumber” has matured and improved significantly in recent years. He says the railing replacement should be finished in two weeks in time for the Super Boat races.
He said the replacement of the decking on the pier also was done with a hybrid form of lumber, which has lasted longer than wood ever did.
“Original lumber had to be replaced every five years or so,” he said. “Fifteen years ago we replaced the decking with this new composite and it has lasted this long and we feel it has another 15 years left in it. When it first went in it was brown, since then it has turned gray but that is the only change. It has paid for itself many times over.”
The new walk-on rate of $1 goes into effect on Oct. 1. The other rates remain unchanged.
The daily fishing fee is $8 or $6.75 for seniors. The weekly rate is $30 or $25 for seniors and the annual pass is $250 or $200 for seniors. Those rates will remain the same at least for the year ahead.