DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation will close the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier in Cape Henlopen State Park beginning Monday, March 23, so that repair work on the pier’s dilapidated pilings can be completed
The pier is expected to reopen in approximately two months, on Friday, May 22, in time for the start of the Memorial Day weekend.
“Repair of the pier is a matter of public safety,” said Charles Salkin, director of Delaware State Parks. “We have no choice but to close the entire pier in order for these crucial repairs to be done. While this will affect thousands of anglers and visitors who use the pier, their safety is our most important consideration.”
Last spring, DNREC fenced off areas of the pier where 18 of the pilings were determined to be in need of “immediate repair.” During the coming pier closure, those 18 pilings will be repaired, along with about 130 others that have been deemed “unacceptable” because they no longer have any load-carrying capacity.
These pilings, which comprise about 25 percent of the total number of pilings on the inner portion of the pier, are located throughout the structure. They have been identified in an engineering report commissioned by DNREC as having little or no capacity for vertical or lateral loads. The decision to close the pier comes after a review by DNREC following the report by structural engineering firm Baker, Ingram & Associates.
Part of the 1,800-foot pier was temporarily closed in August of 2006 after structural problems were identified in the pier’s pilings and support structure. Ten pilings were repaired to allow for the reopening of the landward 1,200-foot section of the pier. The 600-foot seaward section of the pier, including the ‘T-Head’ has been and will remain closed since that time due to safety concerns.
“The pier, in general, is at or beyond its expected lifespan,” said Britt Murray, Construction Projects Administrator for Delaware State Parks. “The creosote-treated timber pilings have severely deteriorated and that deterioration is accelerating,” Murray added.
The all-wooden pier, originally constructed during WW II by the Department of the Army as a Mining Wharf, has undergone limited rehabilitation over the years, most recently with new decking and railings about 12 years ago.
The cost to repair the pilings is estimated to be $650,000. Funding for these repairs came from a combination of about $150,000 in state monies secured in 2008, and about $500,000 in federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife funds.
Once the repairs are made, the expected useful life of the pilings is estimated to be between four and five years. “This ‘fix’ should be viewed as a stop-gap measure,” added Murray. “The best course of action in the long run is a total replacement of this 70-year-old structure.” Preliminary estimates put the price of replacement with a concrete structure at as much as $10 to $15 million.
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