The ongoing master plan update for Jekyll Island State Park is embroiled in controversies about well-founded over-development concerns.
The Jekyll Island Authority (JIA), responsible for preparing the update and getting it approved by a General Assembly oversight committee, has dodged the fundamental question about development limits, which is critical to Jekyll’s character.
Key to the ambiguous language of the proposed plan update is the status of the island’s golf courses, to be determined by a golf-course master plan, yet to be approved. Without golf-course issues being resolved, JIA seems unwilling to set limits on development, asserting it might be needed to pay for golf-course “modernization.”
JIA’s rationale conspicuously ignores a critically important financial fact. Although Jekyll’s maintenance and daily operations must be covered by JIA revenues, major capital-improvement projects typically have been funded by the state.
This distinction has crucial significance when Georgia has a $6 billion budget-surplus, partly due to federal economic-recovery funds. The estimated $18 million that’s required for golf-course modernization should be covered using state funds, not by sacrificing Jekyll’s natural beauty with more development.
If, as discussed, a nine-hole course is used for commercial and residential development to generate income needed to pay for modernizing the remaining golf-courses, Jekyll’s character will be irreparably damaged. Similar concerns were expressed in thousands of public comments submitted in JIA’s online-survey about the master plan.
Jekyll’s master plan update must establish growth-limits honoring public opinion, consistent with capacity-study recommendations and the history of capital-improvement funding within Jekyll Island State Park.
~ David Kyler
Center for a Sustainable Coast