The curvy, concrete pier jutted out into the San Francisco Bay at Aquatic Park like a crooked finger. A steady stream of tourists paced the long walkways admiring sweeping water level views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the endless armada of boats of every size.
Carol Walker made her away along the long pier — only briefly regarding the views.
“Wonderful place to take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge,” Walker said, briefly snapping a photo of the famous bridge.
But her gaze quickly dropped to the Municipal Pier’s crumbling concrete western walls, now barricaded from the public behind a green fence. Rusted rebar poked through chipped concrete holes, exposing the bay waters beyond.
“When I went out there a few years ago and really looked,” Walker said, “I was appalled. I mean I was just appalled.”
The pier opened in 1929 — and spent eight decades as a gathering place. Thousands would turn out to watch annual Fleet Week air shows, 4th of July fireworks and sailboat races.
But over the past few years the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the pier, has had to close off more and more portions of the pier as it continues to crumble and rust — rendering large areas unsafe.
“It would’ve been wonderful during America’s Cup,” Walker said. “Most people couldn’t go out there. During Fleet Week they close it off entirely.”
Several years ago, the National Park Service commissioned a study of the structure. It concluded the pier was in bad shape needed to be replaced, at a price tag of $64 million, which is estimated to have increased tens of millions of dollars since.
The National Park Service says it doesn’t have the funding to replace the pier, which is listed as part of the National Historic Landmark District, meaning it would have to be preserved or rebuilt to its original design.
“We’re working at building awareness at the issue,” said Kevin Hendricks, Superintendent of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. “The repair of the pier is an extremely challenging project.”
Hendricks has been meeting with San Francisco city officials, as well as government representatives trying to line-up funding partners to help pay for the project. He’s also sounding the alarm that the pier’s march toward decay could lead to further closures.
“If the pier degrades to the point that it’s just not safe,” Hendricks said, “we can’t manage different closure areas, we may have to enclose the entire pier.”
Walker has launched her own campaign to try and save the pier. In addition to writing letters to congressional representatives like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Diane Feinstein, she started a petition drive on Change.org — calling for federal emergency funding to save the pier.
“I love the bay,” Walker said. “I don’t like to see something wasted.”
Walker pointed out that the pier also serves as a protective barrier for Aquatic cove where swimmers swim laps against a backdrop of historic tall ships.
“Well this whole amenity would be completely lost,” Walker said looking out over the long curved structure. “I mean that is nearly lost already.”