Pier planks to become memorial walls

Anna Maria Pier Plank International
Some of the pier planks reference folks from foreign lands. Others reference loved ones living and deceased. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The engraved wooden planks on the soon-to-be-replaced Anna Maria City Pier will be removed and used to build outdoor memorial walls at City Pier Park and at the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum.

Those who instead wish to reclaim their engraved planks have until Friday, Jan. 26 to notify the city by email or call the city clerk’s office at 941-708-6130. These planks will be marked and be the first removed by a crew provided by Frank Agnelli, of Agnelli Pools & Construction and Mason Martin Builders.

“Those planks mean a lot to a lot of people and we’re glad to do whatever we can do to help preserve those memories.”
Frank Agnelli, Agnelli Pools & Construction

Agnelli recently told Mayor Dan Murphy that he would remove all the engraved planks at no cost to the city and store the unclaimed planks in his barn in Bradenton.

“I felt it was a nice way to give back to the city. Those planks mean a lot to a lot of people and we’re glad to do whatever we can do to help preserve those memories,” Agnelli said Friday afternoon.

His 10- to 12-man crew will start at the far end of the pier and work toward shore, taking about a week to remove the planks. The planks will be removed after the Army Corps of Engineers permits the work.

Five options

Pier planks were among the matters discussed at Friday morning’s special City Commission meeting.

Murphy began by noting the city did not solicit the donations that led to the planks originally being installed, but they were the city’s responsibility nonetheless.

Anna Maria Pier Planks
City officials have come up with a plan to save the engraved wooden planks that grace the Anna Maria City Pier, which will eventually be demolished and replaced. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

He then presented commissioners with five options. The first was to remove and destroy the engraved planks.

“I don’t recommend that. The community backlash would be horrific,” Murphy said.

Many of the 1,100 planks memorialize or recognize family members, loved ones, friends, relationships and even Commissioner Dale Woodland’s deceased dog.

Sheena Morris plank
One of the pier planks memorializes Sheena Morris, whose 2009 death in Bradenton Beach remains a subject of debate. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

The second option was to remove the planks and store them all so they could be reclaimed by those who purchased them. Murphy said this would require hiring a full-time plank administrator.

The third option was to use the planks for the interior and exterior walls of the new bait shop and restaurant to be built at the end of the pier. Murphy said he liked this idea but it would cost $70,000 to $80,000 to have the planks transported to a mill, milled to an inch thick, sanded and treated with a preservative.

The fourth option was to use the planks to make picnic tables and benches, but Murphy said he had no idea where the city would put them all.

He then recommended the memorial walls.

“To me, this is the best choice of all. People could come visit their plank and it gives us an opportunity to have people visiting City Pier Park as well as driving traffic to the Historical Museum. I’d be proud if my plank was in either one of those locations,” Murphy said.

Anna Maria Plank Paradise
The wooden pier was a tropical paradise to many who spent time on it. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

He acknowledged some planks would be unsalvageable due to weathering and deterioration and others would be damaged during removal, but most could be saved.

“I greatly appreciate the offer of Mr. Agnelli. That’s a $40,000 to $50,000 gift and the storage of those planks at his farm is even bigger. We can do this all with city labor and that is because of the very generous offer the contractor gave the city. The building of these walls would take time. It could take up to a year, it could take less than that,” Murphy said.

Commissioner Brian Seymour liked the idea of reusing the planks for interior paneling but agreed it would cost too much. Commissioner Carol Carter liked the idea of planks being placed at the museum on Pine Avenue.

Commissioner Doug Copeland, a professional woodworker, agreed the walls were the most practical option. He said using the planks for interior paneling is possible, but not worth the cost and effort, and storing all the planks for public retrieval is not practical.

“1,100 boards is a big stack of wood,” he said.

Woodland liked the wall option, with the provision that planks be returned to those who want them, which he estimated to be about 10 percent.

The commission voted 4-0 in favor of the walls. Commissioner Nancy Yetter was absent.

Pier Plank Carol Carter
City Commissioner Carol Carter and her family have two planks on the pier. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Public comment

Ruskin resident Becky Kiefer said her parents used to bring her to Anna Maria, where her dad loved to fish off the pier and her mom loved the shops. She doesn’t want her dad’s plank used to build a picnic table, bench or wall.

“I don’t care what shape they’re in, I want them,” she said.

Laurie Sabath and her husband Joe might open a restaurant in Anna Maria and she inquired about reusing some of the pier planks. Murphy said the city would not part with the planks, but might share some of the other wood removed.

The pier planks represent many special things, including romantic relationships. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

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