The Avila Beach Pier is going to reopen soon — well, part of it

Beachgoers flock to Avila to beat the heat in SLO County

Record-breaking temperatures in San Luis Obispo County cause people to escape the heat at Avila Beach on Saturday, September 2, 2017.
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Record-breaking temperatures in San Luis Obispo County cause people to escape the heat at Avila Beach on Saturday, September 2, 2017.

As sunny weather begins to creep back into San Luis Obispo County, you might be tempted to visit the beach and take a walk down one of the county’s numerous piers.

Well good news — more of one local pier could soon be open to you again.

After being closed for close to four years for safety concerns, the Avila Beach pier could partially reopen in the coming months, Port San Luis Harbor District general manager Andrew Lueker confirmed Tuesday.

Lueker said a recent load capacity study of the pier revealed that the pier is structurally sound up until “bent 58,” a section roughly halfway down the pier.

The district plans to hopefully reopen up to that portion of the pier by the summer time, she said, pending some routine maintenance work and inspections that would have to be finalized.

The 1,600-foot pier closed in June 2015, after harbor officials observed it swaying when crowds of people gathered on it to watch humpback whales that had recently been spotted in the area, according to a previous Tribune report.

Lueker said a report was also done at that time that recommended the pier’s temporary closure.

Since then, the Harbor District has pursued numerous options for how it would reopen the popular structure.

“I always like to say there’s been measured progress on it in a number of different realms,” Lueker told The Tribune in a phone interview on Tuesday.

At first, officials worried that worm-like marine animals had eaten away and weakened many of the pier’s pilings. They warned a renovation of the pier could cost about $1.1 million, while considering options like placing steel pipes over some of the pilings to shore them up or wrapping a jacket around the damaged pilings.

That estimated cost ballooned over time; a February 2017 feasibility study placed a potential pier rehabilitation project at $17 million.

Meanwhile a nonprofit was formed in 2016 to raise funds for any potential project.

Now the latest study has found that, with only some minor maintenance, a majority of the structure is completely safe and can at least partially be reopened. It’s unknown how much those minor repairs will cost.

After bent 58, “there is some pretty significant pile repair work that needs to be done,” Lueker said, which will take more time and planning. That leaves the end of the pier still closed indefinitely.

Lueker said she anticipates bringing a partial reopening package before the Harbor District board in April. After that the district will have more information on a solid re-opening date.

“There is more to come, so stay tuned,” she said.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.