LONG BEACH — When Mike O’ Toole received the go-ahead to install up to 45 eco-friendly moorings alongside the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier earlier this year, his vision was to make the area a more viable destination for regional boaters.
Since then, he has established 17 moorings adjacent to the five-decade-old pier and boaters have responded.
The moorings, which can be rented for a daily rate of $1 a foot, allow boaters to secure their vessels while implementing the pier and the Belmont Shore district.
“I would say by mid-August we’ll be up to 25,” O’ Toole said. “I’m just going slower now because we’re learning so much about the desires and the needs of what works best.”
For boaters, the process is straightforward. Simply pull up to a mooring ball, text Belmont Moorings to the number provided near the pier and operators will meet you there. Each single-point mooring is spaced 100 feet apart and is attached to the bottom of the ocean floor with 10 foot long helix screws, helping to reduce environmental damage.
O’ Toole said the majority of the vessels using the balls have been anywhere from 35- to 60-feet in length. Mooring rentals run 24-hours a day, with a maximum stay of 15 days, and the company will also soon take online reservations.
Highlighted by views of the Port of Long Beach skyline, bulky cargo ships and Catalina Island, Belmont Pier makes for a unique hub.
But it’s the well-known breakwater which rests 1.5 miles off the city’s coast that offers a distinctive advantage to boaters. O’ Toole said the calm waters are a perfect substitute to the popular moorings stationed at Catalina.
And that’s why O’ Toole believes the area is on its way to reinvention.
The pier jutting out of the edge of Belmont Shore is unconventional, devoid of retail venues or upscale restaurants. The area around the concrete structure is surrounded by sandy-white beaches, tranquil water and bustling ocean goers.
But, like anything with age, Belmont Pier could use a facelift. The popular fishing spot is home to vagrants, who can often be seen sitting on the pier’s benches.
Still, the new moorings have helped spark newfound interest.
Long Beach Yacht Club recently moored off the pier, organizing a local getaway for its members.
“We have something that isn’t out there,” said Fred Khammar, who operates the pier. “We have 5,000 boats in Long Beach looking for somewhere to go and something to do other than cruise up and down the harbor and go back to the slip.”
Khammar, who has run concessions in Long Beach for more than 27 years, said in the first months of operation the field has sold out twice—including during the annual Pirate Invasion and the Long Beach Yacht Club event. Success aside though, even he admits the pier is a little rough around the edges and said he is much more invested in the infrastructure rather than attempting to tear it down and get it rebuilt.
“We feel the city needs to come out and invest some tidelands money into an upgrade of the pier,” he said. “Our facility on the end of the pier that we have as a restaurant has been completely redone…Now with the mooring field being in there and getting some synergy, the two of them feed off each other so that you’re actually promoting business to and from the ocean and you always have the businesses coming to you from the land.”
While City Council allocated $250,000 to a feasibility study on revitalizing the pier on Sept. 3, 2013, plans have been pushed back in place of more pressing projects.
“The original plan was to begin the planning and feasibility study this fiscal year,” said Eric Lopez, Long Beach’s Tidelands Capital Improvement Project (CIP) officer. “However, the effort has been postponed for at least a year to accommodate funding for other projects that have public safety needs including the Alamitos Bay Rebuild.”
The pier is also scheduled to receive $10 million in 2018 and $15 million in 2019 for upgrades. Lopez said those funds will not become formalized until the council makes an official appropriation.