Pinellas County’s largest park will soon feature a long-awaited new amenity, as the county commission is moving forward with a plan to remove and replace the Fort De Soto Bay Pier.
In its first meeting of the new year Tuesday, the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners approved a bid from Shoreline Foundation Incorporated (SFI) to construct a new pier at Fort De Soto Park, on Mullet Key. Founded in 1986, Miami-based SFI also has an office in Sarasota.
The county received four bids for the project and chose SFI as the “lowest responsive and responsible bidder.” The cost for the removal and new construction is $4,764,300. The Federal Transit Authority provided a $1 million grant for the project’s environmental assessment and design, and the Penny for Pinellas infrastructure sales tax will cover the remaining balance.
“This is the pier at the southern end of Fort De Soto Park,” explained Jill Silverboard, deputy county administrator. “It is also the pier from which the Egmont and the Shell Key ferries run – which is why we were able to secure a million dollars to support the design for this particular reconstruction.”
Spanning 1,136 acres over five interlocking keys, Fort De Soto is the largest park within the Pinellas County Park System. The keys showcase a wide variety of beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks and other native plants, all of which are vital to the area’s natural environment. The park is also home to a large population of loggerhead sea turtles, which nest between April and September, and over 328 species of birds.
Silverboard reassured the commissioners that all wildlife and environmental concerns were addressed in August during the bidding process.
“So, we’re really very close to starting the project,” she added. “Assuming your approval today.”
According to county documents, the original Fort De Soto Bay Pier was constructed in 1943, reconfigured in 1960 and reconstructed in 1984. The county last performed major repairs to the pier in 2007. Following its continued deterioration, the county subsequently scheduled the structure for replacement.
The new pier will consist of concrete pilings, precast and prestressed concrete beams and a poured concrete deck. Silverboard said the exclusive use of concrete would help extend the life of the new pier. Kelli Hammer, director of public works, noted the current facility once featured wooden catwalks that the county replaced with concrete to no avail.
The new pier will feature a structure above the dock to the Egmont Key Ferry to shade passengers, and two fish cleaning stations will also be available for anglers. Low-level deck lighting along the duration of the pier will provide an added ambiance, and special pole lighting will enhance the views of looking over the water from the pier’s ending point. Permitting agencies approved these features during the design phase of the project.
The county commission unanimously approved SFI’s bid, and the expected completion date is 545 consecutive calendar days.