The Brunswick News


Tinkering with Jekyll doesn't move it forward

March 13, 2010

Hardly a session of the Georgia General Assembly goes by these days without one or two legislators introducing measures they say is aimed at protecting Jekyll Island. Reminding all that it is a state park that belongs to everyone who resides in Georgia, they sponsor legislation that, more often than not, seeks to limit or control what can be done on the island.

This year is no exception. Two North Georgia Democrats - Reps. Barbara Reece and Debbie Buckner - want to revamp the makeup of the governing board of the Jekyll Island Authority and protect what's left of the 35 percent development cap from being used to house more people or draw more tourists to the island and to Georgia's coast. As others before them, they claim it is for the island's own good.

If they believe that, then they haven't been to the coast in recent years. Members of past authority boards allowed the island to sink into a state of shambles and shed what little luster it had left for visitors inside and outside the state. The proof: an alarming drop in visitation.

One must ask if these and other legislators are talking about the same Jekyll Island that, several years back, boarded over its wave-making pool at Summer Waves water park? It did that, those who live nearby will recall, because it could not afford to repair the huge pool. There wasn't enough money - a major problem for a publicly owned park that's mandated by the state to pay for itself.

The natural state of the island is without rival. There may be other places that are just as good, but there are few that are better. But, as should be obvious from low visitation numbers, there must be more to the island if it is to bring in the kind of revenue needed to keep the park in a money-generating mode.

That is the mandate of the legislature, that it earn its keep. It's kind of hard to do when legislators get in the way.

Of course, lawmakers have the ability to end it. They can simply add Jekyll Island to their annual list of appropriations and use state funds to pay for everything, including all landscaping and maintenance. Do that and the Jekyll Island Authority will no longer be forced to scramble for a vision that will sustain the park.

That's not the recommended course of action - not by a long shot. But the only way the other option is going to work is for legislators to stop focusing all of their attention on only one state park, Jekyll Island, and let the authority figure out how it's going to keep Georgia's only park on the coast solvent and a star attraction.

Letters to the Editor in Response to "Tinkering with jekyll doesn't move it forward."

March 17, 2010

Editorial misses the point of Jekyll legislation

The Brunswick News editorial, “Tinkering with Jekyll” claims the purpose of Rep. Debbie Buckner’s Jekyll legislation is “to protect what’s left of the 35 percent development cap from being used to house more people or draw more tourists to the island.” By suggesting that the Buckner bill is anti-development and anti-tourist, “tinkering” has missed Buckner’s point by a country mile. Anyone who has taken the time to read the bill would see that its aim is to ensure that 65 percent of Jekyll Island remains in its natural condition, as required by law.

The bill has no bearing on future development zone unless the JIA has already exceeded the 35 percent development cap, which presumably “Tinkering” would not favor. And, even if the 65 percent rule has already been violated by the JIA, the Jekyll town center project, the redevelopment of Jekyll’s hotels, the completion of the bike trail loop, and the expansion of the island’s campground would still be able to move forward, according to the terms of Buckner’s bill. In fact, for some people, the bill is viewed as developer-friendly because it grandfathers projects that might infringe upon the 65 percent of Jekyll Island that is required to remain in its natural condition. Buckner is trying to promote Jekyll’s revitalization, allow 35 percent of the island to be developed, and honor the 65/35 law all at the same time. And, for this, “Tinkering” condemns her bill.
Where’s the sense in that?
David Egan
Jekyll Island

Changes needed to help protect Jekyll Island

I am very disappointed by the editorial which decries HB 1325 and HB 1361which represent legislative efforts to save Jekyll Island State Park. If this unique park is left to the current JIA Board, we can expect it to suffer the fate of Hilton Head and other unique barrier islands:
Overcrowded and rejected.

Taxpayers of Georgia paid for Jekyll Island State Park and we need to retain its natural ecology for all Georgians, not just the wealthy elite. I’m urging all my
legislative representatives in Georgia to support these two bills. Everyone in Brunswick should do the same if they want this area to remain a viable tourist destination for Georgians.
Bert Richmond

Golf course water hazard is ‘developed’ land

Your editorial on Jekyll legislation seemed to conclude that classifying golf course water hazards as “developed” is part of a sinister plan to reduce tourism. Defining a golf course water hazard as “developed” land seems pretty reasonable. It’s part of the golf course, which is already onsidered “developed.” What part of “developed” don’t you understand?
Howard Sculthorpe
Jekyll Island


Stories about legislation need bill numbers

Regarding "Keen weighs in on Jekyll measures" (March 15) and "Tinkering with Jekyll..." (March 13): Even if Jerry Keen is majority leader of the Senate, to build an article around his view of two bills that he admits he hasn't read is ludicrous and a disservice to your readers.

The Brunswick News would be providing us with more useful information if it gave readers the bills' numbers (HB 1325, HB 1361) and where to find them online.

On March 13, you wrote an editorial attacking the bills, also without mentioning the numbers. One wonders whether either writer had bothered to actually read the bills. This is either sloppy journalism or a willful oversight. Readers deserve better.
Diane Shearer

Jekyll Island bills provide necessary changes

Responding to your editorial on the "tinkering" of state legislators on Jekyll Island problems, I submit that Rep. Buckner and Reece are not just "tinkering." They are doing their job of listening to the Georgia public and seeking to draft legislation needed to adjust state law, when the law does not adequately control situations involved in governance of state parks.

The public should not want its legislators to put on blinders and "get out of the way" when there are legal issues to be resolved. Representative Buckner's bill (HB 1325) would do away with the illogical definitions of "undeveloped" acreage that the current Jekyll Island State Park Authority has inherited. The purpose of her bill is to make the definitions reasonable. To define a golf course water hazard as "undeveloped," when it was created to serve as an integral part of the course, is irrational.

These water hazards are not a part of the integrated natural ecosystems of the Park. Rep. Reece's bill (HB 1361) would make the composition of the Board of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority more effective with respect to park management, by requiring that board members have appropriate expertise.

Park visitors and the park authority have made it clear that the natural systems of the park are a principal reason for visiting the park. Therefore, the park authority board should contain members with appropriate expertise in management and protection of natural ecosystems. This is a simple and clear need that Rep. Reece's bill would supply.
Steve Newell
Jekyll Island