CLEARWATER BEACH — Starting Oct. 1, general admission to the end of Pier 60 for sightseers will double, from 50 cents to a dollar, according to Marine Facility Operator Tom Leonard. The increase will not affect fishermen and fees to fish on the pier will remain the same.
“We have continued to do so well at the Pier 60 bait house we need more employees,” Gordon Wills, the city Marine and Aviation Department's operations manager, told the city council last week.
The 50-cent charge to access the end of the pier hasn't been raised in more than a decade. “Maybe 14 or 15 years,” said Wills. Admission to the rest of the pier remains free.
The increased fee will help defray the cost of hiring two new full-time employees at the Pier 60 shop that rents fishing poles and sells bait, concessions and souvenirs. Higher tourism rates have increased demand for Pier 60 store items and have prompted the need for additional staff to keep the shelves stocked.
“Without the new full-time employees, pier hours will be reduced, thus reducing sales and the additional revenues available to the general fund,” according to city staff.
Currently, the pier is open 24 hours a day. From Oct. 1 through March 31, hours are 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 24 hours on Friday and Saturday. The pier is open year-round except for Christmas.
The 1,080-foot-long Pier 60 at Memorial Causeway and Mandalay Avenue is considered an ideal location from which anglers can catch a number of species of fish. A license is not required. The pier also is one of the best places in town from which to photograph sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico or get a new perspective on its white, sandy beaches.
Last year, more than 183,000 visitors used the part of the pier set aside for fishing.