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Let Georgians have a say on Jekyll Island

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POSTED: January 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.

As Senator for District 3, I have often taken inspiration from the exhibit at the Georgia State Museum, which compliments "our past and present governors and our Department of Natural Resources for the excellent job they have done in keeping our coastline free from pollution, commercial exploitation and destruction," and for providing "thousands, of yet unborn generations, the pleasure of exploring and enjoying Georgia’s seashore."

The spirit behind the Capitol exhibit is enshrined in the 1996 Master Plan for Jekyll Island State Park, which states that the park’s "principal attraction is the accessibility it provides to an unspoiled microcosm of the coastal environment. It is this unique opportunity upon which all future plans for the island’s viability should be based."

The above-stated emphasis on the value of accessibility to Georgia’s coastal "jewel" should make the violation of this principle unthinkable, yet Jekyll Island State Park is currently the subject of a proposal that would severely limit direct public access to its main beach. The proposal, which envisions an oceanfront village to be built along nearly the entire span of the park’s most popular beach calls for the elimination of four beachside public parking lots that service Jekyll’s day visitors and those staying at off-beach locations on the island.

The proposal’s author, Linger Longer Communities, points out that only 63 acres, one percent of the island’s total acreage, would be taken up by the town center. This same tract, however, runs along the beach which is most accessible to the general public at high tide.

Understandably, the public is upset over this controversial proposal. In a questionnaire administered to the park‘s visitors, including thousands of Georgians, 90 percent of the respondents said they want Jekyll’s main beach to remain open, free of condos, and the like. Ninety-five percent of the participants in the Jekyll Island Authority’s own 2006 Guest Survey responded similarly.

Linger Longer maintains that its Jekyll Village would not interfere with public access to the beach, despite its elimination of beachfront parking lots. JIA spokesperson Bill Crane, in denying the necessity of the beachfront parking lots, has stated that, "To put surface lots [there] is a waste of that land. It would be more desirable for hotels, retail space, and residences."

Given the above thinking, the question becomes, what can be done to preserve Jekyll Island State Park’s long-standing tradition of accessibility to the general public? The answer comes down to Georgians speaking out with one voice on protecting the people’s park to ensure that the planners abide by the original charter and current state law.

To give Georgians a convenient way to come together on this important issue, I am inviting local government agencies, church and youth groups, civic associations, and individual citizens to endorse the following Resolution:

"Be it resolved that, in view of the intent of Jekyll Island State Park’s founding legislation and as recommended by the park’s Master Plan, the present oceanfront parking areas and beach access points shall be maintained for the benefit and convenience of the general public, with special consideration being given to the needs of children, the elderly, and the handicapped through the provision of family friendly facilities." The Resolution can be either downloaded or endorsed online by visiting www.jeffchapman.us.

Widespread adoption of the Resolution will provide a tangible means of showing where public opinion stands on the issue at hand. The people’s Resolution can then be brought to the floor of the General Assembly, encouraging our state’s elected leaders to take action to safeguard Jekyll Island State Park’s founding principle of accessibility to all the people of Georgia in perpetuity.

 

 

Sen. Chapman's district includes Jekyll Island, St. Simon's Island and Brunswick.

 

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