VENTURA — Thirteen months after it was closed for repairs, California's longest wooden pier reopened Saturday amid much fanfare.
As Ventura Mayor Greg Carson cut a ceremonial red ribbon to officially reopen the pier at noon, cannons were fired from a flotilla of boats and about 100 people dived into the water to swim around the 121-year-old landmark.
The $3.5-million renovation stretches the Ventura Pier to 1,958 feet. The entire pier deck was redone, and about 17% of the pilings were replaced.
Some of the first-day visitors were thrilled--and others decidedly unthrilled--to discover a noticeable wiggle in the structure as it moved with the waves and wind. "Whoa, is that an earthquake?" asked one alarmed woman as she clutched a pier railing.
City officials, however, said the pier is stronger and more stable than it was before the renovation.
"Wavespout," an $80,000 sculpture near the end of the pier, drew intense interest and mixed reviews. The six-foot copper fountain imitates a blowhole, spurting seawater up to 10 feet high. The circle of copper tubing was designed by San Francisco artist Ned Kahn.
"It's great," said Bill Philbrick, of Ventura, peering closely at the sculpture. "I thought it was an inner tube at first."
Terri Bailey, also from Ventura, said she thinks the city paid too much for the fountain. "Art is wonderful, but I would rather see the money go to things that are more of a necessity," Bailey said.
The Ventura Pier has always been a popular fishing spot. But on Saturday, anglers had to wait until late in the day for crowds to clear before getting their chance.
Jack (Red) Maurer, who has been fishing off the pier for 53 years, caught about 15 fish in about an hour. "I'm just glad to get out here again," he said, reeling in a perch.