Angler alert! Pier 68 may have to wait

Philadelphia may have to wait longer than expected for a new fishing pier and wetlands park at Pier 68 in Pennsport.

The goal has been to open the pier park, located behind the Walmart/Home Depot complex, sometime this fall. The potential delay stems from damage to the river-end of the pier caused when a boat hit it years ago.

The rub is figuring out how much it would cost to remove that section from the otherwise safe pier, and how much money would be left in the $1 million pot set aside for the pier project, DRWC Vice President Joe Forkin and Planner/Project Manager Lizzie Woods explained Thursday.

DRWC does regular inspections of this and all its piers, and the damage is no surprise. But now that the design/build team lead by Studio Bryan Hanes has begun its work, cost estimates to remove the heavy concrete are beginning to jell. The current estimate is coming from the engineers and Forkin wouldn’t reveal it either in the public executive committee meeting or to PlanPhilly when asked about it later. He said it’s sizable. “Not a million, but lots.” A better number is coming from the contractors, and that number will be shared, Forkin said. Both the weight of the concrete and the need for special equipment out in the water to do the work add to the cost, he said.

Once a firm figure is in hand, DRWC will have to determine how much money would remain for the park’s planned amenities after the compromised end of the pier is removed and whether that’s enough to create a park the public would enjoy.

DRWC could also elect to hold off on removing the end of the pier, fence it off, and build the planned amenities on the remaining majority of Pier 68, Woods and Forkin said.

Not only would that make for a less aesthetically pleasing park, Forkin said, it would also create logistical problems for the fisherfolk who have been clamoring for a new place to drop their lines, not to mention a tempting hazard for them and everyone else who uses the pier and a potential liability for DRWC.

“At low-tide, there are mudflats” along most of the sides of the pier, Woods explained. Even at high tide, the water isn’t deep enough to cast a line in some places closest to shore. The ideal place to cast from especially at low tide is at the river-end of the pier. A pier with the damage end removed would be long enough for those fishing to get to the water. But if left in place, that end is an obstacle.

The strong temptation would be to scale any fencing and go out on the compromised portion.

“Is this something worth delaying while raising additional funds?” Board Vice Chairman Jay Goldstein asked during Thursday’s meeting. Goldstein said depending on what the more-refined cost estimate turns out to be, waiting a year or so and then building the entire project as designed rather than moving forward with a park “that comes across as more generic.”

“It’s not as if we don’t have other things going on,” he noted, so the momentum of redeveloping the river would continue.

At Goldstein’s request, staff promised to bring the issue back before the board once a better cost-estimate is in, so the board can decide whether to proceed with or delay the project.

Pennsport Civic Association President James Moylan sees it Goldstein’s way. “Obviously our greatest concern is to have the safest, most useable, cleanest , most welcoming situation possible. If it takes more time and dollars, so be it,” he said.  

Moylan said he hadn’t heard of the situation at the water-end of the pier before, and would have liked to have known previously. He wants DRWC to keep Pennsport “in the loop.”

Woods noted that a yet-to-be-scheduled public meeting on Pier 68 is expected to happen later this month, and it’s hoped that firmer estimates will be given by then so the issue can be fully explained to participants.

The $1 million currently slated for the project includes $500,000 in grant money from the William Penn Foundation, a $250,000 state grant, and $250,000 from the city.

See video of the meeting below, which includes discussion of Pier 68 and other projects.


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