Surfside Beach leaders seek community input on pier reconstruction

Surfside Beach’s pier committee recently distributed a survey to get feedback from locals on what businesses and activities they would like available on the reconstructed pier.   

Robert Blomquist, Surfside Beach’s public information officer, said the town received around 900 responses, with half of them identifying as town residents.  

“Community feedback is good,” Blomquist said. “There are people that go down there regularly that sit and kind of just watch the construction of the pier. People enjoy it. They find it interesting to watch and see it progress.”  

The weeklong survey closed Sunday, April 24. Blomquist said the survey asked respondents to select features they deemed important to the pier. He said that the top three responses were multiple dining and food options, a family-friendly atmosphere, and live music and events.   

Leigh Ann Vallejo has visited the town since 2007 because her father owns a house there. She said she has a lot of positive memories visiting the pier with her family. She said the pier is a “peaceful place” for people to fish, families to gather, and everyone to enjoy the scenery.  

“I would personally like the Surfside pier to stay a quiet place,” she said. “Maybe add a restaurant or coffee shop.”  

Vallejo said she would prefer if the new pier offered Surfside residents free admission, which was not the case for the old pier.   

Blomquist said the survey addressed admission fees. He said 57% of survey respondents said there should be no fees. Blomquist said the pier committee hopes to use this information to help them come up with ideas for the project.  

Surfside Beach Mayor Bob Hellyer said the town received proposals from 10 different businesses interested in operating on the pier. Hellyer also said two businesses previously on the pier were not returning. 

“We already have a signed lease for a restaurant that was a previous tenant,” he said.    

Hellyer said that the pier is a focal point of the community. He said Surfside is the only municipality in South Carolina that owns a pier, whereas most others are privately owned. Because of this, Hellyer said everything will be open and transparent.  

“We can’t make a decision without sharing with everybody,” he said.  

After Hurricane Matthew destroyed the pier in 2016, Hellyer said the town received more than $9 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. He said the federal funds will cover more than half of the project’s expenses.  

Hellyer said the funds required the town to follow FEMA regulations, such as the pier having to be elevated above 20 feet. Hellyer said this height difference could create difficulty for fisherman trying to reel in fish.   

As a potential solution, Hellyer said that they’ve thought about installing baskets for fisherman to pull fish up.  

Hellyer said the original plans were for the pier to open on July 4, 2022, but that now it’s looking to be closer to late October.  

Surfside administrator William Shanahan said inflation issues have caused some difficulties, including rising costs and supply delays. Shanahan said rebuilding the pier helps with economic development and tourism.   

I also understand the value of the pier to the town,” Shanahan said. “It will be a building block for the future of this town. “  

Hellyer said the town used to close the pier for Fourth of July and hold firework shows. Hellyer said those will work out better now that the new pier is made of concrete instead of wood.  

“When we do open the pier, it’s going to be a grand opening,” Hellyer said. “It’s going to be a day of celebration.”

Photo by Joshua Carroll.