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Iconic Minocqua Pier to be Shortened

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DEAN S. ACHESON
/

Rather than spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace Minocqua’s public fishing pier, the town board Tuesday has decided to remove the outermost 50 feet that sustained a partial collapse last year.

“There’s a real sentimental attachment to this structure as a part of our community and our history,” said town chairman Mark Hartzheim. “Even for people who don’t use it, it is recognized as a major landmark.”

The fishing pier is what remains of the old Highway 51 bridge, built in 1927. It runs nearly parallel and in close proximity to the U.S. Highway 51 bridge over Lake Minocqua.

The wooden structure extends 303 feet into Lake Minocqua and is popular with fishermen and others who like to watch the sunrise and boaters.

But nearly a third of the 160 pilings are in poor shape according to Ayres Associates, an engineering firm from Eau Claire who did an underwater survey a few years ago.

A total rehabilitation of the structure to its existing size would cost about $553,000, an Ayres representative told the town board in October 2019. Replacing the existing pier with a same size structure would cost about $656,000.

The water depth is 18.5 feet at the end of the current pier, according to public works director Mark Pertile. At the 250-foot mark the water depth is 16.5 feet. That should still give anglers “great fishing opportunities” to target walleye and panfish in the deeper depths, he said. 

In addition to its sizeable length and width, the massive pier is unusual in that it has two interior rectangular openings for catching fish. Reducing it by 50 feet would eliminate one of those openings, however.

Pertile said town crews would remove the deck boards and structural members above the waterline this winter. Two supervisors wanted assurances that no heavy equipment, such as a skid loader, would go out on the ice. Pertile assured them that would not happen. The town would hire an outside contractor to saw the pilings near their base and remove them by June 1. That cost would be between $6,000 and $12,000, the public works director added.

Supervisor John Thompson wondered if some of those pilings could remain to act as fish habitat. Pertile suggested that it might not be feasible.

There was no dissent to the proposed shortening, with supervisor Bill Stengl calling it “a good compromise.” Former town chairman Don Gauger, an advocate of keeping the pier, also signed off on the pier reduction, Hartzheim said.

The board did leave the door open to any civic-minded benefactor who might step forward with a sizeable donation to preserve the entire structure. Rehabbing that last 50 feet would cost about $50,000, according to Pertile.