Best Jekyll bike route in question
The Brunswick News
August 03, 2012

Some Jekyll Island residents are concerned about a plan to extend the island's bike path trails through marshlands.

Plans are for bike paths in the historic district to be linked to trails on the north end of the island and to stretch to Ben Fortson Parkway, extending the island's 25 miles of bike paths.

David Egan, a Jekyll Island resident and co-founder of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, is concerned about a portion of the planned path that requires a series of bridges to be built through marshland.

He wants to know if another option is available. "Is there an alternative ... that would not take you through the marsh?" he asked.

The Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the state park, has applied for a construction permit from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division, as required by the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act.

A hearing on the permit will be at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 17 at DNR headquarters, 1 Conservation Way, Brunswick.

Eric Garvey, chief communications officer for the Jekyll Island Authority, says the plan is the best way to give island guests and residents a connected network of bike paths and will be minimally invasive to marshlands and wildlife.

The bike path extension is two-fold, Garvey said. It serves a recreational purpose and a safety purpose to keep cyclists off Riverview Drive itself, which can create a traffic hazard.

"We do feel like the proposed Riverview Drive bike trail is the best option, given that we want to connect to the future bike trail that will go down the causeway and ultimately connect to the Coastal Georgia Greenway (a planned bike path), and also connect to the Jekyll Island marina with a path that goes under the Jekyll bridge," Garvey said.

Garvey says the authority worked with DNR to create the plan and thinks that it will leave nature intact.
"In planning, we consulted with DNR to minimize the impact and take the shortest route possible over the marsh," Garvey said. "We completely embrace the Marshland Protection Act and treasure our marshlands. We also appreciate the public's concern for the marsh."

Egan suggested an alternative path that would loop around the historic district and connect to an existing path that travels through the maritime forest.

But Garvey says that won't keep cyclists from traveling on Riverview Drive. "The purpose isn't to get people to Flash Foods necessarily," Garvey said. "The purpose is to have a bike path that connects people to the entire island."

Jekyll Island resident Frank Mirasola says he isn't concerned about building pathways over the marsh, as long the authority takes precautions to protect it and its wildlife.

"When you're building over the marsh, No. 1 you have to be sure that you're not building in such a manner that you impede the (water) flow in and out of the marsh," Mirasola said.

"No. 2, you have to make sure that when you're working in the marsh, you're not damaging the marsh. Anytime you work in the marsh you're going to degrade the marsh."

Mirasola's focus is on an existing bike path along Captain Wylly Road, in the middle of the island. He says its condition is unsafe for cyclists.

"It goes from Beachview (Drive) to Riverview (Drive), and it is in deplorable shape. It has been in need to repair for at least 10 years," Mirasola said. "It's at the point in time where it's actually dangerous for people to ride on it. It's so dangerous that people are riding in the road, and that makes it more dangerous."

Improvements and repairs to existing bike paths, including the one along Captain Wylly Road, are on the authority's agenda.

"Captain Wylly, it is in the plans," Garvey said. "The first priority is to connect. It's all about safety, so that people stay out of the road.

"The second priority is to enhance the existing path. We're going to carry those enhancements and repairs as far as our budget allows."

IPJI note: The Jekyll Island Authority is seeking a permit from the Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee to build a series of bridges along and into the marsh in order to extend Jekyll's bike path network. Siting safety and connectivity issues, the

JIA is contending that the proposed marsh paths, including a 594-feet bridge within the marsh on the south side of the Historic District, are the only viable alternative for completing the bike trail in the areas concerned. The CMP Committee willreviewthe permit request at its August 17th meeting, which is open to the public.