VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) – Fans of the popular Venice Fishing Pier are getting some good news and some bad news about its future.
The good news? It will reopen soon. But, the bad news is there could be some changes on the way, including a possible shark fishing ban and a fee for tourists.
The pier has been closed for weeks thanks to damage from Hurricane Irma, but the city just announced plans to temporarily open it for snowbird season.
In the next two to four weeks, the pier will reopen through next spring. Then it will be closed and completely replaced in a project that will last a few months. It will come at a cost of around $700,000.
“It’s failing as time goes on. The material needs to be replaced, the decking is at the end of its useful life,” said City Engineer Kathleen Weeden.
After it’s replaced, Mayor John Holic has proposed two major changes: charging non-city residents a fee for using the pier and a total ban on shark fishing. Holic says shark fishermen have damaged the pier.
The large hooks have ripped up the netting underneath the pier. That net costs $80,000. He also has heard reports of shark fishermen being disruptive.
“Using profane language, pushing people out of the way and so forth,” said Holic.
He also adds that some shark fishermen have disobeyed the laws by paddling out on kayaks near the pilings in an effort to drag a line further out into the water.
“What we need to do is establish some controls to make it a pier that’s usable not only for fishermen, but for people that want to walk out on the pier as well,” explained Holic.
Holic added that many piers across the United States ban shark fishing. He also believes the fee for non-residents could help offset the costs of the pier repairs.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to charge anyone for walking out on the pier, that’s what its there for. But, if you’re gonna camp out so to speak, if you’re gonna be fishing for a prolonged period of time, a reasonable charge seems to be the right thing to do,” explained Holic.
There are critics.
“I’m paying the Sarasota County tax just like the residents of Venice, so why that should affect me? We all pay the same tax into the same place,” said fisherman Mike Rundek.
Shark fishing is a popular attraction here and brings customers to local restaurants like Sharky’s. Some feel these proposals will further hurt tourism.
“Sharky’s is losing business as we speak,” said fisherman T.R. Larsen.
“People come down here because of Sharky’s pier, that’s how they call it,” said Rendek.
“I understand that, and when I found out when I took this office, there are people that are not happy with almost anything you do. My job is to come up with potential solutions for problems that we have and not be that concerned about is it going to disturb this group of people or that group of people, but rather, is it the right thing to do for the city of Venice,” said Holic.
City council members will address these issues at a future meeting.
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