ANNA MARIA – Mayor Dan Murphy is working on a plan to reuse the engraved wooden planks on the Anna Maria City Pier. The planks will be removed when a new pier is built to replace the aging and storm-damaged pier built in 1911.
Last week, Murphy said the city has received more than 300 suggestions on what to do with the engraved planks. He plans to present three options, with projected costs, to city commissioners in December.
“There’s a common thread with the suggestions: make a boardwalk and build it either at Bayfront Park or City Pier Park; or make a wall somewhere with all the planks on it. The most appealing suggestion to me is to use the planks on the inside of the pier and as paneling for the walls inside the new bait shop and restaurant. People love repurposed wood, and with all these names carved in it that would be pretty cool,” Murphy said.
It has also been suggested the planks be used to cover the outside of the new pier buildings, or be used to cover the ceilings inside. Murphy has also received many requests for railings to be installed along the length of the pier.
“I’ve got all these recommendations. I’m going to take it down to a short list and present that to the commission. The other option is to store the boards somewhere and give people a certain amount of time to claim them. All options are on the table,” Murphy said.
Pier Plank Walk project
Approximately 1,100 engraved planks were purchased to be engraved and installed on the pier since the Historic Anna Maria Pier Plank Walk project was initiated in the early 2000s by The Islander newspaper. A search of the Islander’s online archives revealed an in-house advertisement for plank sales dated Dec. 17, 2003. Individual planks were sold for $100 and could be ordered through The Islander website.
Dated June 30, 2010, a Pier Centennial Celebration promotion posted at the newspaper’s website offered plank-inclusive VIP sponsorship packages for $1,000 and $500, in addition to individual planks for $100.
An article from Aug. 28, 2012, said orders were being taken for the final 50 planks, according to plank organizer Janice Dingman. The story stated planks could only be ordered through The Islander website.
According to the paper’s City Pier Plank List, plank #1 said, “In loving memory of Bob Condie 1918-2005,” and plank #1100 said, “Edgar & Megan Pantoja – Spending Forever Together.”
Murphy was elected in 2014, so he has no first-hand knowledge of the pier plank project to rely on. Last week, he and City Clerk LeAnne Addy were still trying to determine who purchased the planks and who received the money for the planks.
“As far as I know there is no accounting for anything and there’s no records. I’ve asked for an inventory of who the planks were sold to and where the plank is located. I’m getting requests from people saying they want their board back and I have no idea whether they actually bought the board,” Murphy said.
“Some people just want their plank back and some people are upset with the whole thing because they weren’t told carving into the wood would shorten the life of their plank. I’ve been told carving names into wood is like taking the crust off a piece of bread – it shortens the life of the plank. Planks are milled in such a way that water runs off them. When names are carved into them, the water doesn’t run off. Some of them are completely obliterated and you can’t even read the name,” Murphy said.
The pier has been closed since Hurricane Irma damaged the T-end of the structure in early September. It will not reopen until a new pier is built.
On Oct. 17, representatives from the Ayres Associates engineering firm presented commissioners with a project timeline that estimated a 16-24 week permitting period; four to six weeks to solicit and review proposals from local contractors; two to four weeks to select a primary contractor and 30 weeks for the actual construction. Ayres estimated a total of 68 to 82 weeks to complete the project.