By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Gulf State Park on Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast will be a beehive of activity now and into the future.
One of the priorities is to get a portion of the popular Gulf State Park Pier open after Hurricane Sally collapsed a 175-foot section near the end octagon.
Although no estimate is available as to when the collapsed portion can be replaced, Alabama State Parks officials are working diligently to open a segment of the pier as soon as possible.
Lamar Pendergrass, State Parks’ South Region Operations Supervisor, said Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) bridge inspection divers inspected the pier after Sally to make sure the standing portions of the pier are structurally sound.
“The divers also inspected and took pictures of the collapsed portion of the pier,” Pendergrass said. “We’re going to have assess what is the most feasible way to proceed with that section. That hasn’t been determined at this point.
“We have damage to the main water line, a 4-inch line that went all the way to the octagon. The electrical service that supplied the up lights and down lights has been damaged.”
The good news is the electrical supply to what Pendergrass calls the T, where the restrooms are located in the middle of the pier, is intact.
“We already have the lights in that area on and working,” he said. “After inspection, it looks like we will be able to open about a 40-foot section beyond the T. We will section it off and have it available for fishing.”
The contractor who had just finished a $2.4 million renovation to the pier days before Sally hit is on-site and working to get the pier repaired.
“We have the contractor who did the remodel under contract,” Pendergrass said. “He has a team of individuals working on the pier to put back the panels that were displaced during the storm.”
The 1,540-foot pier was built with panels designed to blow out to mitigate the damage to the structure. More than 200 of those panels were recovered after Sally.
“Those workers are replacing those panels, repairing the ones that were damaged and building new ones for the panels we weren’t able to recover,” Pendergrass said. “This week, the crew that installed the handrails should be on-site and start repairing the handrails that were damaged. The handrails around the restroom area took a good bit of damage.”
Pendergrass said a definite timetable on when the work might be completed is hard to determine right now.
“It’s very hard to say,” he said. “We’re really just scratching the surface. The electrical and water have to be addressed.
“We’re probably looking at winter. But we don’t want to put a date on it. We’re definitely going to open as soon as possible.”
The aforementioned renovations to the pier included replacing the pine decking and handrails with ipe (pronounced ee-pay), a hardwood from South America with a projected lifespan of 30 years, compared to 10 for pine.
The grand reopening of the pier was scheduled the day that Sally made a direct hit on the Alabama coast with 105-mph winds and a forward motion of 2 mph, which caused the coast to be pummeled for hours and hours with hurricane-force winds.