SCARBOROUGH — Pine Point’s fishing fleet has a modern, new pier, built next to the 40-year-old decaying structure it replaced.
It’s been a nine-year process to replace the old municipal pier, which was described as “obsolete” and “in total disrepair” by Marine Resource Officer David Corbeau, who many know as the harbormaster.
The old pier was intended for pedestrian traffic only, so it’s not wide enough to provide vehicle access to boats. It was built by the town in 1971, when only 15 commercial fishermen worked from Pine Point. Today more than 30 commercial fishermen, mostly in lobstering, work off the pier.
Corbeau said that because the old pier couldn’t handle trucks, fishermen had to load their gear onto the floats from the shore at low tide. As the tide rose, gear could be hauled from the floats to boats. But if the tide didn’t go out low enough or if there was a strong wind, gear couldn’t be loaded at all.
Some fishermen attempted to drag their gear to the boats down the 200-foot pier, but the herculean task was made all the more difficult by 50-foot gangways that made the incline treacherously steep.
The 14-foot wide, 220-foot long new structure is open day and night, and is sturdy enough to support vehicles as heavy as fuel trucks. Combined with 100-foot gangways, that means fishermen can easily reach their boats at all hours, regardless of the tide.
It boasts two one-ton jib cranes, and though they’re under lock and key, any fishermen who completes a quick safety course with Corbeau can have access to the equipment. He said the cranes ease the burden of loading and unloading bait, fuel and catch, which means more time on the water.
“In essence, this new pier will help (the fishermen) make more money, and save them their backs,” Corbeau said.
The pier cost about $800,000 to build – $400,000 in town money, the rest in grants – and features electrical outlets and a supply of fresh water.
The town began exploring the construction of new pier in 2002, citing the growing fleet of fishermen and ongoing improvement costs to the existing pier. The town met with a group of fishermen, who agreed the most important necessary improvements were in access and the number of floats.
After getting approval from regulatory agencies, the town in 2004 applied for and received a $15,000 grant from the Department of Transportation’s Small Harbor Improvement Program – the first of three SHIP grants totaling $165,000. The money funded the design of the pier and float system.
Over the next few years, the town pursued more fundraising for the project, including more than $252,000 from Land for Maine’s Future. The grant required the town to agree that the Pine Point Pier will remain working waterfront.
But there were bumps along the way.
All the land on Pine Point used to belong to the town, but a parcel of land at the end of King Street near the pier was deeded to the Pine Point Fisherman’s Co-op in 1977. Construction of the new pier would have required an easement from the co-op for public access, a point that Town Manager Tom Hall disagreed on. He said the town and the public had a right to the pier as part of the original deal on the land.
In the course of preparing for the project, it was discovered that the co-op had no right-of-way to access King Street, effectively leaving the building landlocked if the town had decided to prohibit access. Not only that, but the town and co-op had both been honoring a long-expired deal on parking for the co-op and it’s adjoining restaurant, Rising Tide.
The debate was a source of much “frustration and delay” for six months, Hall said, and threatened to kill the whole project.
But a deal was struck in September 2010. The co-op granted the town an easement for access to the new pier, and the town granted the co-op an easement for access to King Street. In addition, the co-op and restaurant would lease 25 parking spaces from the town for an annual rent of $5,000.
With all the easements secured and legal loose ends tied, construction of the new pier began last October.
Today, there’s still between $10,000 and $15,000 left over from the project. Hall said that if it’s enough, the money will be used to build two more floats for use at the pier.
There are still some kinks to be worked out on the new pier, too. One is access for recreational boaters.
“It’s not just for commercial fishermen, it’s for anyone who needs it whose life could be made easier,” Corbeau said.
But Hall said the pier is intended for commercial fishermen. While some level of recreational use could likely be supported, he said, a decision on time at the pier and access hours has to be determined.
“We need to get a little experience with it,” Hall said. “The harbormaster will sort through it, but we need some experience to make those decisions.”
One solution may be the old pier. With less gear to haul, the old pier may be just fine for recreational fishermen or other boaters. It will stay open for pedestrian use, said Bruce Gullifer, director of community services and project manager for the new pier.
“The old pier will stay up until it deteriorates to the point it needs to be taken out,” he said. “It’s still OK for pedestrians and recreational fishermen.”
Though the pier has been open for nearly a month, the town will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Town Council Chairwoman Judy Roy will speak, in addition to local fishermen and a representative from Land for Maine’s Future.
The event is a way for the community to give thanks to all the people involved in building the new pier, Hall said.
“We can now take a quick minute to take a look back, appreciate the effort and get back to work,” he said. “Fishing is an important part of our history. … If we can help by making their process more efficient, it’ll certainly help the guys doing it now and I’d like to think it’ll add a glimmer of hope to the next generation.”
A visitor strolls on the old Pine Point municipal pier, left, next to the recently completed fish pier, on Wednesday, Aug. 3. The old pier is still usable by pedestrians and recreational fishermen, Scarborough Marine Resource Officer David Corbeau said.
A view of Scarborough’s new, $800,000 Pine Point fish pier from one of its floats. One of two yellow, one-ton jib cranes, which fishermen use to haul bait, fuel, traps and catch, can be seen on the pier.