Refurbished work begins on Pearl Beach Pier in Clay Township

The Pearl Beach Pier stretches more than 300 feet into the North Channel where the St. Clair River feeds into Lake St. Clair. Clay Township began repairing the pier Sunday, when workers started taking down the side railing as part of a two-phase project. (Tony Wittkowski | Times Herald)

The Pearl Beach Pier stretches more than 300 feet into the North Channel where the St. Clair River feeds into Lake St. Clair. Clay Township began repairing the pier Sunday, when workers started taking down the side railing as part of a two-phase project. (Tony Wittkowski | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

A favorite spot for fishermen along the St. Clair River is getting a facelift.

Repair on the Pearl Beach Pier in Clay Township began Sunday, when workers began taking down railing as part of a two-phase project.

Township Supervisor Artie Bryson said the pier has a safety issue and if left unattended, would have to be condemned.

“It’s been underutilized so far,” Bryson said. “It’s in disrepair, the decking on the pier is in bad shape. We either had to repair it or condemn it.”

The refurbishment of the pier will cost about $80,000 and is being split by Clay Township’s Downtown Development Authority and its parks and recreation department.

Work for the first phase includes resurfacing the dock and the sidewalk that leads up to it from the road.

The township will also be installing low-level lighting, and upgrading its swimming ladders and hand rails. The existing railing would be not be replaced, but sand blasted and lowered to be compliant with the Americans with Disability Act.

The pier is located at the end of Pearl Beach Boulevard on the North Channel of the St. Clair River. The project was bid out to Cortis Brothers Excavating — a Cotterville company — and is expected to be complete by June.

Phase two will turn the end of Pearl Beach Boulevard into a small parking lot and include the installation of benches and other amenities on shore.

Clay Township received a $45,000 DNR Passport grant in August to rebuild the pier.

Bryson said the grant funding will be used toward the second phase, which does not have an estimated cost or date of completion.

“We split it up into two phases so we could apply for a second passport grant,” Bryson said. “We would be able to utilize the end of the road near the pier as a parking lot. I believe we would have 12 spots.”

The last work done to the pier was in the 1980s, when the township installed new planking.

Bryson said he hopes these updates will attract more residents to the pier, which he considers to be a “prime location” to fish and watch boats.

“When it is done it will be a legitimate fishing pier,” he said. “I think more people will take advantage of it.”

Clay Township began repairing the Pearl Beach Pier on Sunday, when workers started taking down the side railing as part of a two-phase project. (Tony Wittkowski | Times Herald)

Clay Township began repairing the Pearl Beach Pier on Sunday, when workers started taking down the side railing as part of a two-phase project. (Tony Wittkowski | Times Herald)

Mark Thompson, chairman of Clay Township’s DDA, said they have been looking at refurbishing the pier for a few years now.

Thompson said the idea is not to change the configuration or the footprint of the pier, but to make it safe and to add a few amenities.

“The deck and benches were getting bad,” he said. “So, we will replace them and add a few other things. We are hoping to add solar lights for higher visibility at night.”

As the co-owner of Johnnie Lega’s Restaurant and Tavern — located north of the pier — Bo Finn has noticed the pier’s deterioration.

The pier is equipped with boat dock pilings, so a portion of Finn’s customers come in from the North Channel and tie into the pier to come in for dinner.

Finn said the pier is a popular location for fisherman.

“We have fishermen all year round except when there’s heavy ice,” he said. “In the spring, summer and fall, they are out there all night sometimes. So, the new pier is going to be well lit, which will be a big plus.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 11, 2015)

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