With a count of "3,2,1" and the removal of a barricade, White Rock’s iconic pier reopened to the public Tuesday morning in front of a small crowd, more than eight months after a severe storm split the boardwalk in half.

White Rock resident Don Patterson was among the first dozen people to cross the pier. He says he has been watching the construction work unfold for the past few months and wanted to come take a look at the improvements for himself.

“Every last bang and thump and pounding pilings...it’s nice to see it open,” Patterson said. “We thought we would come down and see what has been done.”

Tony Roy says he has been walking the pier almost daily since he moved to the area in 2004.

“It’s been a little bit sad,” Roy told CTV. “It affected the community.”

Just days before Christmas last year, winds of up to 90 kilometres per hour caused massive power outages and created powerful waves.

"The water was virtually coming over Marine Drive, that’s how high the tide was," said Darryl Walker, the mayor of White Rock.

The pier was severed in two during that storm and one man was caught on the side being washed out to sea, forcing a helicopter to come in and rescue him.

The first phase of repairs cost $4 million. It was primarily to mend the two portions of the walkway back together and fix some safety concerns.

Improvements include steel planks and a concrete deck meant to withstand another storm as strong or stronger than the one that hit on Dec. 20.

"It’s a little bit of the old and the new," Walker told CTV News Tuesday morning. “The old pier feels like the old pier, maybe smells like it. Then you get to the new piece.... and its like, this is solid, this is firm.”

Artwork proclaiming it as Canada’s longest pier has also been added to the boardwalk near the promenade.

Work on some of the lighting and arches that make the pier iconic has been delayed, so some of those features may not be in place until the end of October, according to the city.

And while the pier is reopen, the mayor says work on safety improvements is not yet over.

"The second phase is approximately $11 million. It will be an entire rebuild of the rest of the pier, but what we have to do is fundraise and get money from other sources," said Walker.

The second phase of work will focus on seismic upgrades and redoing the breakwater. That construction will force the city to close the boardwalk down again. A timeline for that work won’t be released until funding is secured.

Walker hopes the city will get financial assistance from the provincial and federal governments.

"I think it’s a landmark. I think it’s definitely worth putting that kind of money into it. If that’s required they should definitely do that," said Jane Lowe, who walks along the promenade every week.

The community has rallied to re-open the pier, holding various fundraisers to cover expenses not covered by insurance.

Walker could not say how much the repairs so far had cost the city.

Local stores and restaurants are also relieved the area is reopening, just in time for the labour day long weekend.

"It’s a costly project, it’s not a cheap one and the insurance to deal with. So considering all these things I think it was done in a nice, timely matter," said Gus Rachid, owner of Five Restaurant.

Rachid’s restaurant is directly across from the boardwalk. He says the closure of the area, along with construction nearby has been bad for business.

An official opening ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 21.