Georgia’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor
Recreation Plan (SCORP) Implications for the Redevelopment of Jekyll Island State Park

Recent news stories have reported that statewide budget cuts threaten to close some state parks and privatize recreational facilities, particularly golf courses. While no one can deny that our state’s finances are in sad shape at this moment in time, the benefits provided to Georgia’s citizens by our state park system, with its affordable recreation opportunities, argue against park closures and privatization, as does the likelihood that state parks will become increasingly popular for families seeking affordable getaways at a time when high gasoline prices and a sagging economy are making life trying for many.

The need to preserve and enhance our state parks and recreational areas is the dominant theme of an impressive study - Georgia’s “Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan 2008-2013” (SCORP), an outline of which appears below. The work of an interdisciplinary team of experts on recreation and public lands, SCORP points out how public health, family ties, and an appreciation for nature benefit from outdoor recreation, and it calls into question the ethics of turning over public lands for private development projects, an issue which has captured the public’s attention in recent months as part of the proposed redevelopment of Jekyll Island State Park.

While Jekyll Island is not among the state parks facing closure, concern has been raised over the park’s future because of the private-public partnership now being worked out between the Jekyll Island Authority’s board of directors and Linger Longer Communities, particularly with regard to giving Linger Longer “bottom line financial responsibility” for Jekyll’s revenue generating facilities, including the park’s golf courses, tennis center, and Historic District. The terms of this contract will soon be known to the public, at which time close and ongoing scrutiny will be essential to make sure that Jekyll Island remains the “people’s park” rather than being handed over to a private developer, whose interest in maximizing profits may outweigh the wishes of the general public for their own state park. If you would like to be part of the IPJI sub-group that will focus on the “privatization issue,” please send a note to degan@igc.org. 

As you read through our outline of SCORP, please consider how its findings and recommendations relate to the preservation and enhancement of what Jekyll Island has to offer our state’s citizens as Georgia’s only barrier island state park.

To read the complete text of Georgia’s SCORP, 2008-2013, visit the website: http://www.gastateparks.org/net/content/go.aspx?s=132975.0.1.5


STATEWIDE COMPREHENSIVE OUTDOOR
RECREATION PLAN (SCORP), 2008-2013

HIGHLIGHTS

AGENCY: Parks, Historic Sites & Recreation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 

PROVIDERS: 48 local parks, 15 historic sites, totaling 83,344 acres, including Stone Mountain Park and Jekyll Island State Park.

PURPOSES OF SCORP:

To satisfy Georgia Code 12-3-1, which requires the Department of Natural Resources to formulate, in cooperation with other state agencies, interested organizations, and citizens, a comprehensive recreation policy for the State of Georgia; to study and appraise recreational needs of the state; and to cooperate in the promotion and organization of local recreational systems or programs.

To ensure continued funding of parks and recreation through the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (FLWCF). Funding from the FLWCF is particularly important for Georgia since our state is one of 14 states nationwide without a consistent funding stream for state parks and recreation areas. 
    
GOVERNOR PURDUE’S STATED GOALS FOR SCORP:
Promote physical fitness.
Reconnect our youth and families with nature.
Build the next generation of environmental stewards.
Enhance our state and local economy.

RESEARCH METHODS UTILIZED TO PRODUCE SCORP:
Telephone surveys (1600 randomly selected Georgians).
Town Hall meetings (Atlanta, Brunswick, Camilla, Columbus, Milledgeville, Rome, Tallulah Falls).
Stakeholder focus groups of underrepresented groups and recreation professionals.

SCORP’S FINDINGS ON MAIN  REASONS GEORGIANS PARTICIPATE IN OUTDOOR RECREATION: 
To have fun.
To be with family and friends.
To relax or reduce stress.
To exercise and improve health.
To experience or enjoy nature.

EXAMPLES OF PREDOMINMANT SURVEY RESPONSES FROM SPECIFIC GROUPS:
African-Americans:
   Why is outdoor recreation important to you and family?
Provide urban escape/connect with nature
Provide educational opportunities about nature

   What should be done to improve outdoor recreation in your area?
Improve number, variety and diversity of activities.
Improve/upgrade/maintain existing resources.
Educate public and officials on benefits and value of outdoor recreation.

High School Youth and Elementary School Students:
    Why is outdoor recreation important to you and your family?
Good opportunity for family time/bonding in nature

   What should be done to improve outdoor recreation in your area?
Increase access to/convenience of /opportunities at outdoor recreation resources.
Increase number of trails, paths, and sidewalks specifically for walking, hiking, biking, skateboarding, and jogging, playgrounds and playscapes.
Update and maintain existing facilities and resources.
Make outdoor recreation more appealing to all ages.

Most Frequently Mentioned Online Comments to SCORP’S Dedicated Website
Increase conservation/preservation of natural resources, specifically including:
Conservation of large, undeveloped tracts.
Conservation of native species and habitats.
Conservation of green space.
Less development in parks.
More coastal parks.
Conservation of land along streams, rivers and in watersheds.
Increase equine access/opportunity.

STRATEGIC ACTIONS IDENTIFIED BY SCORP, 2008-2015, INCLUDE:

Create programs and activities in parks promoting healthy lifestyle choices.
Identify and reduce barriers to use of outdoor recreation facilities.
Attend to segments of the population that are under-served.
Capitalize on the public’s growing desire to travel to experience nature and participate in outdoor recreation events and programs,
Maximize tourism potential associated with conservation of our natural resources.
Rehabilitate, update, and upgrade existing outdoor recreation facilities to maximize marketability.
Promote outdoor recreation events, programs and facilities that attract day travelers and invite overnight visitation by responding to recreation preferences and needs.
Create plans to ensure the protection of biodiversity.
Provide balanced interpretation, education and outdoor recreation programs to expand the knowledge and appreciation of our natural cultural and recreational resources in a manner consistent with conservation.

SCORP AND A HEALTHY GEORGIA:

Obesity epidemic:
Georgia has the 15th highest obesity rate in America
Affects 40% of Georgia’s population.
Contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis
Cost to Georgia is $2.1 billion per year.
Obesity is most prevalent in groups with lowest participation in outdoor activities, including women, minorities, people with low income, non-metro residents, and people 65 and older

Inactivity:
58% of Georgia adults are physically inactive
64% of Georgia high school students are physically inactive, and 42% spend excessive time watching television.
49% of Georgia middle school students spend excessive time watching television.

Demographics of heart attack and stroke:
Residents of eastern and southern Georgia, in the traditional agricultural areas, have the highest rate of death by heart attack and stroke in the state.

Demographics of high versus low infrastructure recreational sites:
The distribution of high-infrastructure sites for active recreation is most scarce in the agricultural regions of eastern and southern Georgia.

Active Recreation/High Infrastructure Sites Recommended to Address Obesity Epidemic:
Active (resulting in heightened aerobic rates, e.g. biking, walking, swimming).
High-infrastructure (e.g., golf courses, tennis courts, soccer fields).