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The Suncoast Sierra Club doesn’t exactly endorse Blue Pier, but they kind of do

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Suncoast Sierra Club isn’t specifically endorsing a Pier design, but they are fingering one as the best example of sustainability.

In a letter to the Pier Selection Committee Wednesday, the Sierra Club’s executive committee calls for a design that “maximizes the potential for Florida-friendly green space and ecological restoration.

They argue such a design could help mitigate environmental woes from sea-level rise to water quality and loss of habitat while also creating “a lasting destination for residents and visitors.”

“We therefore encourage the Pier Advisory Committee to strongly consider incorporating more environmentally focused ideas in the final design plan,” the letter reads.

The group points to Blue Pier as the best example and to the Pier Park as the best design in the top three for its use of upland space.

Like many arguments in favor of Blue Pier and Pier Park, the Suncoast Sierra Club points to a study conducted late last year by Lambert Advisory in Miami that came up with a list of recommendations based on economic, demographic and real estate trends.

Among others, the Lambert study identified both Pier Park and Blue Pier as providing “a seemless transition from upland to pier and pier to pier head in a way which the others do not.”

The Sierra Club notes that same study calls for an environmental education component in a design. One critique of Blue Pier has been that it does not necessarily contain that, but supporters of that design point out the entire concept is an environmental education center.

Sierra Club echoes that reminder.

The group also points to the city’s own Downtown Waterfront Master Plan in which a consistent theme is moving parking away from the waterfront.

“The master plan encourages more opportunities to touch the water, more public access, and less parking throughout the waterfront. This is in concert with what we see as a viable direction for the pier,” the letter continues.

The group worries that environmental concerns have not been a large enough part of the conversation surrounding a new Pier.

“Our hope is that emphasis can be put on environmental rehabilitation and ecosystem longevity rather than spending funds on building and maintenance, or covering the pier footprint with concrete or asphalt.”

They also claim public green space is cheaper to both build and maintain.

“We were pleased with the fact that the Blue Pier design in particular had the lowest public subsidy out of all entrants. All other design plans include an emphasis on building construction and a lifetime of maintenance fees.”

Despite the Suncoast Sierra Club’s apparent favoring of Blue Pier, that design has been removed from consideration by the Pier Selection Committee by ranking it outside of the top three.

Blue Pier was the number three pick on the city’s public survey.

Perhaps recognizing that design may no longer be a viable choice, the group has included Pier Park in its letter.

Pier Park does not include as many environmental components as Blue Pier such as planting mangroves and restoring habitat, but it does have an emphasis on public green space on the uplands.

Even though the environmental group seems to be airing on the side of caution by including Pier Park in its letter, they still hint at a request to reconsider Blue Pier.

“We realize that it’s impossible to please everyone, but we hope that you take our considerations into account. Thank you so much for your service and attention,” the letter concludes.

It is endorsed by the group’s Executive Committee and signed by Suncoast Sierra Club Executive Committee Chair Lisa Hinton.

The Pier Selection Committee is expected to make its final rankings on April 23. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman has said he will be speaking to council at its meeting Thursday to encourage them to stick to the process. That will likely include a reminder that the city survey is non-binding.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]

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