The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has completed its inspection of the Copano Bay Fishing Pier. It has determined the iconic pier should be closed permanently due to the deteriorated condition of the 86-year-old wooden structure.
That decision was made after consulting with Aransas County and the Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) officials Monday, Aug. 14.
TxDOT officials said the future of the pier will be determined following an environmental study and coordination with state and federal agencies.
In the summary written by TxDOT’s Leon Flournoy, P.E., Construction and Maintenance Branch – Bridge Division, he wrote, “Overall the remaining standing portions of the fishing pier are in significantly distressed condition. With this above water inspection we cannot adequately determine the remaining capacity of the structures. The two spans that have collapsed are evidence the structure can collapse with little notice. After our survey of the fishing pier, it is recommended the remaining portions remain closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
“Advisory warning signs indicating possible failure of structure may be warranted. Instituted to warn boat traffic to stay clear of the structure and only use the main channel for crossing. Signs should be posted stating boats should not tie off to the pier.”
The ACND is the pier’s operator.
ACND Chairman Malcolm Dieckow, after meeting with TxDOT officials, said, “We recommend they demolish those sections closest to land first so people aren’t tempted to walk on the pier.
He said, “It’s a shame (the pier has to be demolished), but something like this only has a certain life span.
“It’s unsafe, and safety always has to come first.”
Dieckow noted the importance of the pier, saying the ACND will look into possible grant funds to build another smaller pier in that area.
“We recognize how important this pier is for people,” said Dieckow.
He also said there is a demand for fishing piers with public access in Aransas County.
ACND Harbor Master Keith Barrett said the pier concessionaire contacted him (on June 8) telling him there was “something odd” he wanted Barrett to see.
“While the trash was being emptied an employee noticed a dip in the pier’s surface,” said Barrett.
The ACND, in an abundance of caution, barricaded off that portion of the pier, between the “imperfection” and the north end of the southern portion of the pier.
Those fishing north of the “imperfection” were asked to move south, and behind the barricade.
“That evening that section gave way and fell into the bay,” said Barrett. “I’m glad we took the action we did.”
The second causeway, which was removed to make room for the new causeway, was located next to the fishing pier (original causeway).
“There was a lot of pounding going on in the vicinity of the pier (during demolition of the second causeway),” said Barrett. “We know there were a few (minor) barge strikes (on the fishing pier).”
At that time Barrett asked, “Has it reached its useable lifespan?
“Right now its age is its worst enemy.”
Age, hastened by construction of the new causeway, and demolition of the old (second) one, finally caught up with the popular fishing pier.
Within two hours of the news being posted on The Rockport Pilot’s Facebook page, almost 10,000 people learned of the pier’s fate.
“I showed my daughter (Rosalie Torres) how to fish on that pier,” said Angel Sanchez.
Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Diane Probst said, “We are saddened to hear our nationally-known and locally-loved Copano Bay Fishing Pier will be torn down.”
She noted the ACND will continue to operate the boat launches and restroom facilities at both ends of the pier.
“We support them in their efforts to seek funds to build a serviceable pier for everyone to enjoy in the future,” said Probst. “We encourage TxDOT to work with our historical organizations to preserve the legacy of our pier. It is an integral part of the lives of so many local residents and visitors.”