Donations to fix aging Cayucos pier are flooding in, officials say

ktanner@thetribunenews.comAugust 13, 2013 

Fundraisers say they’re substantially more than halfway to their goal of raising $100,000 to match grants and county funds to fix the aging, iconic Cayucos pier. Repairs are estimated to cost more than $2 million.

Timing is critical, officials say, because the next big storm could severely damage the aging structure. The county fenced off the seaward third of the pier July 5 to keep people off the most unsafe portion.

In a mailing soon to be sent to potential donors, the Cayucos Pier Project committee states that most of the pier’s “pilings, headers and attachments are more than 60 years old and could be as old as 130 years.” The structure “has 14 crucial pilings missing, dozens of unattached or weakly attached pilings, and many other pilings weakened by worms and years of storms and pounding surf.”

Though it’s unknown exactly how much money has been donated so far, fundraising committee chair Greg Bettencourt said, the response has been “just amazing,” and not just from Cayucos residents.

“I got a $400 check in the mail today from Mill Valley, and a $1,000 check recently from Los Osos. It’s mind-boggling to learn how much this pier means to so many people from all over.”

He said 49 percent of donors willing to give their addresses have been from outside of San Luis Obispo County.

Committee members also have sold more than 1,300 T-shirts emblazoned with “Cayucos Pier Project” and a large sunset scene of the setting. So many $20 shirts have sold from the committee’s booth at the pier that even the vendor is amazed — and a little overwhelmed by rush orders for replacements.

Bettencourt recalled an early pair of donations given by three little girls, whom he assumed were sisters. “For two days in a row after July Fourth, the girls went around town on their bikes, collecting donations,” which wound up being about $50 and $70, he said.

The girls, who were vacationing in Cayucos with their family, requested a receipt. It seemed a remarkably adult request, until the girls told the committee members that their dad had told them to ask for it — not for any obvious reasons, but because he was going to match whatever they were able to raise.

Inspecting the pier

Shoreline Engineering of Morro Bay began Monday an emergency inspection of the pier and its pilings to draft recommendations for stabilizing the 953-foot structure so it doesn’t fall down. The pier, initially erected in the 1880s, has been rebuilt and repaired since then, especially after heavy winds and high waves.

Curtis Black, deputy director of county parks, said he expects the initial inspection should be complete by the end of August. The county continues to search for funds to stabilize and rebuild the pier.

Black said in an email interview that the Federal Emergency Management Agency “may have money for upgrades to prevent future damage but doesn’t have funding to replace what’s here. So we may get some funding from them that could be applied to upgrades, but not to the basic construction efforts.

“Otherwise, we’ve continued our efforts with outreach for funding,” he said, including to corporations, individuals and granting agencies.

How to donate

Save Cayucos Pier volunteers, who are trying to raise $100,000, are seeking financial donations of any size, selling T-shirts and bronze plaques memorializing larger gifts.

Donors of at least $1,000 will receive a 6-by-4-inch personalized plaque to be affixed to the pier. Donors of $5,000 or more can sponsor specific pilings. Several plaques already have been purchased, according to fundraising committee chairman Greg Bettencourt.

If donations exceed the committee’s $100,000 goal, a designated fund for future maintenance of the pier will be set up. The community-controlled money would be maintained by the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County. The fund would supplement, not replace, what the committee hopes will be an earmarked, annual county fund to keep the pier shipshape, something that hasn’t been in the county budget in the past.

You can find Save Cayucos Pier volunteers most weekends at a fundraising table at the entrance to the pier, near the Cayucos Veterans Memorial Lions Hall, 10 Cayucos Drive. Donations are tax deductible and will act as a local match to get grants to rebuild the aging wooden pier.

For details on the cause, go to www.savecayucospier.org.

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