Visitors chime in on future of Surfside Beach pier

Visitors chime in on rebuilding Surfside Beach pier (WPDE file image)

Tourist season is quickly approaching, businesses are preparing for big crowds and some are just hoping to get by after Hurricane Matthew impacted their businesses.

More than half of the Surfside Beach pier was destroyed during Hurricane Matthew.

The Surf Diner and Pier Outfitters are both located at the base of the pier.

Pier Outfitters is owned by Curtis Kremer. He said he relied on the pier for business.

Last year, they made hundreds of thousands of dollars on pier admissions alone.

"We're hoping to survive the year without the pier business," said Kremer.

Their biggest seller each year is bait shrimp for fishing. They sell the bait and rods.

"We're going to lose that business this year, but what's worse is that families are going to have to wander (to) some place else for something to do," he said.

Even though he's concerned about the upcoming season, he said he remains optimistic.

"We've got plenty of souvenirs, sweatshirts and t-shirts. We're the only ones that have Surfside Beach on our product, so please come see us for that. We're still here. We're still in business and our ice cream is still delicious," said Kremer.

People who live and work in the area have voiced their opinions and want the pier rebuilt, but what about visitors?

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce surveyed visitors to see what they think of the pier. The chamber president, Brad Dean, said the positive feedback was overwhelming.

"Many view that as an iconic attraction where they take their family and friends. Memories to last a lifetime. One of the most pleasant surprises for us was the number of visitors who come year after year," said Dean.

He said the pier is iconic not just to Surfside Beach but for for the entire Grand Strand.

Dean said the survey makes it clear, visitors want it rebuilt. The question now is, "When?"

"We're hopeful that next year the city will have the pier rebuilt," said Kremer.

He wants to see the pier finished by summer 2018.

Related: Future of Surfside Beach Pier still uncertain, officials say it won't be open for summer

The town administrator, Micki Fellner, said she's hoping to have answers by June.

"We are working with FEMA and our consultants right now. We have Hagerty Consulting and they are working through the process to try and get us the most amount of money they can through the FEMA grant process," said Fellner.

Fellner said the FEMA grant would pay 75 percent and they might be able to get additional hazard mitigation funds.

Related: Surfside Beach officials trying to figure out how to replace town pier

Fellner said the difference between fixing the pier now and after Hurricane Hugo is the ownership. It is now owned by the city and not privately owned.

"You have to make sure you're doing the right thing for the town because it's public money. Consequently, we have to jump through every hoop there is. For instance, hiring a consultant who does nothing but structured in water and who is an expert in that area," said Fellner.

They have two more public hearings about the pier. One in April and one in May.

You can view the in-depth survey results below:

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