By Tim O’Meilia
Hoping to shoo fishermen off the soon-to-be-rebuilt East Ocean Avenue bridge in Lantana, the Town Council approved construction of a $500,000 concrete fishing pier on the west end of the span.
Palm Beach County will build the 8-foot-wide pier in conjunction with the construction of the new bridge, which is expected to begin in November and last two years.
The 400-foot pier will jut into the Intracoastal Waterway from Bicentennial Park on the north side of the bridge and include a pedestrian walkway beneath the bridge, connecting to Sportsman’s Park on the south side. It will be handicap accessible. Lantana will maintain and operate the pier for 30 years, including managing parking in the area, with the option of two 30-year renewals. Palm Beach County will own the pier.
Residents have long complained the 3-foot-wide side-walks along the current bridge are too narrow for walkers and bicyclists to navigate around fishermen. The new bridge will relieve some of the congestion: The sidewalks will be 6-feet wide and separated by a concrete barrier from new 5.5-foot shoulder/bicycle paths on both sides.
In addition, the bridge will be 11 feet higher at the center, further discouraging fishing.
Meanwhile, East Ocean Avenue merchants are planning festivals, fishing derbies and other events to lure barrier island residents in South Palm Beach and Manalapan who will be forced to drive six miles to the north or nine to the south to reach the 30 or so shops on the street.
“We need to view this as an opportunity and not an obstacle,” said Greater Lantana Chamber of Commerce president David Arm, who owns a fitness center on Lantana Road. “It would be great if we could create an identity for Lantana, make it a destination.”
There’s no doubt merchants will suffer.
“People in South Palm Beach are going to go to the new Publix in Lake Worth. They aren’t going to come all the way to the Lantana Publix,” said Wayne Cordero, co-owner of the Old Key Lime House, a popular restaurant overlooking the water on Ocean Avenue.
He expects to lose 25 percent of his business, but supports the idea of weekly festivals and offering discounts.
Manalapan town officials have been encouraging the owners of the Plaza del Mar shopping center on the barrier island to sign a small grocery store.
Margie Plunkett contributed to this story.