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Harbor board reviews Harford Pier's safety as it reopens to traffic

dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Plans are being worked out to remove the canopy from the Harford Pier at Port San Luis and eventually rebuild the end of the pier, all of which is suffering from old age and harsh ocean conditions.

Concerns over the structural safety of the pier caused harbor managers to close it to cars for nearly a month. At a well-attended meeting Tuesday, the harbor district’s board of commissioners voted to lift the car ban after a plan was adopted to keep cars from driving and stopping too fast on the pier.

“We don’t want to hurt the businesses on the pier because that hurts us,” Commissioner Brian Kreowski said.

Reopening the pier to cars comes as a relief to the owners of three businesses at the end of the pier. The two restaurants and a fish market suffered a 30 to 40 percent reduction in business in the past couple of weeks, said Leonard Cohen, owner of the Olde Port Inn, one of the restaurants.

“When the weather is inclement, people are not going to walk out there,” he said.

Structural engineering reports over the past 21 years have documented a deterioration of the pier. Much of it has been rebuilt in recent years, but the pilings, baseboards and canopy at the end of the pier have not been restored.

The pier dates to the 1870s, and the canopy was installed in 1919. Pilings are rotting and splitting, and the canopy is sagging in many places, making it a potential safety hazard, said Steve McGrath, harbor manager.

Starting March 9, all tourist vehicles were banned out of concern that they could damage the pier, particularly if they drove too fast and stopped quickly, increasing the pier’s horizontal load. The commission adopted a plan Tuesday to add stop signs that would slow traffic.

Meanwhile, harbor officials are finalizing plans for rebuilding the seaward end of the pier. Removing the canopy will cost from $150,000 to $400,000, while rebuilding the tip of the pier will cost at least $4.5 million, McGrath said.

Rebuilding the pier will mean that the Olde Port Inn and fish market will likely be relocated, at least temporarily, to other sites on the pier. Pete’s Pierside Café will not have to be moved, McGrath said.

Harbor managers are beginning the process of obtaining a state coastal development permit for the work. Funding will also have to be lined up, and the process could take years to complete.

“This is a major issue for the harbor,” Kreowski said.

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