She is the pride of San Clemente. With two million annual visitors, she is easily our number one tourist attraction. As the most photographed icon in the city, the pier has become our common destination, where we can celebrate life in groups or contemplate life alone. She is the landmark that we are proud to call our home. Where we watch the surfers carving s-lines through the ocean swells or lone sweepers paddling toward a golden horizon. We walk her length and pass the fishermen pulling their food from the sea as San Clemente strollers trod the weathered boards, numb from the tonic of nature. It is a place where we
listen to live music on the sand, kick back in our chairs and watch a deep-orange sun fall
into the indigo silhouette of the last Channel Isle.
She hasn’t had an easy life. Born in a Norwegian’s dream and built from the labor of men and mules, she was finished in 1928. She served her time during the depression helping men to catch their evening meals and smugglers to load their rum.
She lost most of her limbs in the hurricane of ‘39, including a cafe and bait shop, which crashed to an angry sea. She was patched back together for $40,000.
Next came the storms of 1983 where she would break again. Four hundred feet of outside pilings came storming in, driven by the strength of pier-high waves, smashing into the pilings at the shore. Soon another 80 ft. broke free, leaving the tower isolated, accessible to lifeguards only by boat, and threatening the newly-built Fisherman’s Restaurant. This time repairs would be more like $1.4 million. (A substantial amount was raised by local donations from a citizens group headed by the late Maryanna Anderson.)
To this challenged structure, we add 88 years of sea and salt, and the endless pounding
of tides, the damp-dewey winter mornings, and sun-baked summer afternoons. We add
the 4 million human feet that walk the planks each year, and too many seagulls to count.
It is a recipe ripe for high-maintenance.
Several San Clemente citizens, including Council Member Lori Donchak and Citizen of the Year Jim Nielsen have formed a new organization. Nurtured in the expansive arms of the Friends of San Clemente Foundation, it will be known as PierPride, a vehicle to raise public donations that will allow the community to help care for the aged icon in a manner worthy
of her place in it.