The Jekyll Island Conservation Plan: Missing in Action?

On December 1, 2010, the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) hosted a public meeting at which a draft of the Jekyll Island Conservation Plan was presented in a session chaired by JIA consultant Jay Exum. While the Conservation Plan (CP) clearly has a number of admirable features and Dr. Exum’s presentation was informative, unfortunately the Plan itself was not made available for viewing prior to the meeting. As a result, public input was limited by virtue of the fact that it is difficult to make substantive comments about a document without first having had a chance to read it. Such a situation is analogous to being asked to review a book sight unseen and to rely instead on what the book’s author has to say about its merits.

The JIA’s rationale for not making the current draft CP public is that, for the sake of efficiency, it did not want to release the CP until the Conservation Plan Committee’s comments and edits could be included in it.  If that was the case, why did the JIA decide to schedule and hold a public input session before those comments and edits could be included and the draft could be released for public viewing?

On December 9th, the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island obtained a copy of the draft CP from the JIA by filing a formal request in accord with the Georgia Open Records Act. However, now that we have seen the document and are able to offer some constructive comments, the JIA has said that input on the current draft CP will no longer be accepted and that people will have to hold their comments until a refined and more complete version of the CP is released in early January, after which time another public meeting reportedly will be held. So, we find ourselves confronted with a situation in which the JIA was willing to accept oral input on the draft CP at the December 1st meeting when the public had not yet seen the Plan, but now that it’s available to the public the JIA says comments are no longer being accepted.

Even though comments on the current draft of the CP are not being accepted by the JIA, the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island—believing that public participation in the planning process should be an ongoing affair, not something that takes place only after a plan has been refined—has web-posted the Plan so that concerned citizens can see what it currently says. [Please skip over page one, entitled "Executive Summary," which is currently filled with Latin text as a placeholder because that section has yet to be written.]

As you read the Plan, please pay special attention to the section entitled “Environmental Assessment Procedure,” for if the Plan’s goals are to be met, that section must provide the means for objective analysis of the potential effect that proposed development projects might have on Jekyll’s Island’s natural systems, and for enforcement of any decisions reached in that regard.

For comments on the draft CP by marine biologist and environmental advocate Dr. Steven Newell, who was invited by the JIA to review the draft, click here. Dr. Newell’s comments originally appeared in the Jekyll Island Citizens Association Net Update, Vol. XI, #60, Dec. 11, 2010.