RYE Pier has again been closed to the public as works begin on improvements to the popular but deteriorating structure.
The $2.1 million to make the pier safer and stronger with improved access will see strengthening and widening of a 270-metre section, a new all-abilities access ramp, safety railings and better solar lighting.
Built in 1860, Rye pier has been deteriorating in recent years and there have been calls for government money to restore rotting planks and pylons and improve accessibility.
The pier once hosted thousands of Greeks for the annual Epiphany, or blessing of the water ceremony, until the condition of the planks made it too dangerous, and the ceremony was moved to Rosebud.
Scuba diver Mark Green said sea horses and other marine species could be disturbed by the works, although Parks Victoria had taken into account the need to protect the marine habitat and only time would tell if the sea life would recover.
“The disturbance of wildlife can destroy what’s there, and it may not return, just like when they disturbed the Portsea pylons,” he said.
“One of the things we have always pushed for is that any works must protect the life that relies on the pier, and the undersea structures.
“It really is an amazing world under there, with breeding sea horses and an incredible amount of colour and life.”
Long time pier campaigner and chair of the Rye Community Group Alliance, Mechelle Cheers said the upgrade was overdue but “very welcome”.
She said an audit done a few years ago proved the waters around the pier were a “marine wonderland”, and while it was sad that where would be disturbance, it was necessary in order to keep the pier.
“I think Parks Victoria has tried every way they can to go about this carefully,” she said.
“It was at the stage of being closed off for good a few years ago, so it’s wonderful that Parks Victoria has announced this …we can only hope that when funding becomes available the rest of the pier can be replaced.”
Parks Victoria said planning had been critical to ensuring the area’s sensitive marine habitat would be protected, including an independent ecological report to ensure no long-term impacts on the environment.
Piles from the old pier section will be moved to deeper water to help minimise any effects while also assuring the area remains accessible to divers and snorkellers.
The project has been paid for through the state government’s $24 million Piers and Jetties Economic Stimulus Package.
The pier is expected to reopen mid-year.
Nepean MP Chris Brayne said Rye pier was synonymous with summer on the peninsula and held memories for many locals and visitors.
“That is why we are upgrading this popular spot to ensure it can be enjoyed by many for years to come,” he said.