MARGATE — For nearly a century, the 500-foot Margate fishing pier has only been open to dues-paying members of the local anglers club.
That may soon change.
There have been talks between the state, city officials and the Anglers Club of Absecon Island to extend the pier using Department of Environmental Protection funds ever since the Army Corps of Engineers completed its Margate beachfill project two years ago. The project resulted in excess sand at the foot of the pier, creating less than ideal conditions for casting a rod.
Now, the parties are close to reaching a deal to extend the structure by 125 feet, but there’s one caveat: The DEP wants the runway and inner tee to be accessible to the public, according to an email sent by fishing club President Jeff Rutizer to members and obtained by The Press of Atlantic City.
The total cost of the extension would be $850,000, Rutizer said in the email. The pier’s public portion would be open from dawn until dusk, and fishing would not be allowed there. Margate would be responsible for upkeep there, and new gates would be installed to separate the public section from the private section.
“All the final details are being worked out,” Rutizer said in the email. “This has been approved by our board of directors, and I agree with it since it is the only way we can move forward with the extension, and it will not interfere with our fishing or clubhouse areas.”
The Anglers Club of Absecon Island, founded in 1923, owns the pier located between South Essex and Exeter avenues. The nonprofit’s members pay annual fees to access the structure and maintain it. In 2016, the group took in $55,859 from contributions and grants, according to 990 forms filed with Guidestar.com.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Rutizer said negotiations are still underway and declined to comment further.
“There’s no contract or agreement,” he said. “We’re still in negotiations.”
Initially, the DEP provided $300,000 for a 65-foot extension after the beachfill project was finished in 2017, said agency spokesman Larry Hajna. That plan hasn’t been executed yet, and it may not be enough to accommodate fishermen, Hajna said, so the DEP is discussing providing additional money to build a longer pier.
Open access would be required if money is used from the DEP’s open space program, Green Acres, Hajna said.
“The use of Green Acres money would trigger a requirement for public access,” Hajna said. “At this point, the issue of public access is being discussed.”
Margate Commissioner John Amodeo, who discussed the plans at last week’s city meeting, said engineering studies have been completed and the project could begin as soon as October.
At low tide, he said, fishing is impossible, with more sand than water below.
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the pier sustained $100,000 in damage and a surplus of sand collected underneath it. The club paid for the repairs without assistance from government agencies, but the dune project from two years ago made matters worse.
“There’s a lack of water for fishers to fish,” Amodeo said. “As it sits now, it’s very limited.”