Highlights of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 14 September 2009, as recorded for JICA

(Note: IPJI has placed some text in "bold" type for emphasis and has clarified some statements)

Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order and called upon Conservation and Preservation Committee Chair Richard Royal.  Royal announced that GA DNR had awarded a $25 thousand Coastal Incentive Grant to the Park Authority.  Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore described the goals of the federal (NOAA)-funded DNR-grant project as phase-2 production of interpretive signage and other educational materials with a focus on the beaches.  She added that she appreciated the supplemental funding that had been provided by the University of Georgia Sea Grant Program.

Conservation and Preservation Committee

Chairman Royal reported that the Park Authority’s Conservation Plan would now be reconstructed/revised, since it had been in legal review for so long, and since there have been marked changes in the redevelopment plans of the Authority.  Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks gave a brief history of the Conservation Plan’s origins.  Hooks explained that it is now felt that the current Conservation Plan is more of an inventory than a management tool.  He stated that he would be receiving guidance from the State Attorney General’s Office regarding necessary structuring of the Plan, and then he would put together a team to begin work on a conservation-management plan.  Members of stakeholder groups would be represented on the rewriting team, and the team would be led by Sea Turtle Center Director Terry Norton.  Other groups represented would include Little St. Simons Island naturalists, Georgia DNR/CRD, Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center, Coastal Land Conservation Program, the Georgia Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service.  A consultant will be engaged to assist in preparing the Conservation Management Plan.  Appropriate parts of the original Conservation Plan will be incorporated into the new Management Plan.  It is anticipated that about one year will be required to prepare the Management Plan, including time for input from both the Authority Board and the public. [Note: September 14, 2009 marked the 671st day since the Conservation Plan was sent to the Assistant Attorney General for review.]

Mindy Egan applauded the Conservation Committee for bringing the Conservation Plan back to the forefront of Park planning.  Egan recommended including both Fish & Game and Wildlife personnel from Georgia DNR on the rewriting team.  Egan clarified previous statements: there is a management section (Section L) in the current Conservation Plan, and it deals with both new development and redevelopment.  She asserted that the new Management Plan should be finalized before the current major redevelopment projects have gone too far to be altered.  She commended the Authority Board and staff for finally taking some conservation action.  Director Hooks noted that the rewriting team will include representatives of all of the DNR divisions.

Finance Committee

Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson presented a summary of Park financials.  Revenues were on target with budget for August.  Parking fees were $69,000 higher than anticipated, due to the rate increase (traffic was down 3,400 cars for the month).  The rate increase also spurred decal purchases, which were up $15,000 for the month.  Summer Waves (SW) was $61,000 below budget for August, because of the early start to school, the closing of SW during the week following school opening, and rainy weather.  The Park’s expenses were $35,000 less than anticipated.  Year-to-date, the Park is 20% higher in net income than anticipated.  Mike Hodges inquired whether the rate increase might have discouraged some potential visitors to the Park?  Answer: it is more likely to have been a weather issue, since there have been few negative comments about the new fee at the Greeting Station.

Director Hooks provided an update on the question of residential-lease extensions.  Written commentaries are still being received and transmitted to the Finance Committee.  The peer review of the Bleakly residential-lease proposal by an independent San Francisco firm has begun, but because of the continuing input from the local public, the peer review has been slowed, so that the new public input can be considered by the San Francisco people.

Joe Iannicelli proposed that residential lease extensions beyond 2049 be divided into three categories: waterfront, obscured waterfront, and inland.  He suggested that 0.5% of the county-tax-assessed value of land in each residential plot be used to determine the lease fee, and that the fee be set each decade.  The 0.5% fee would be used provided that it did not exceed what is being charged to commercial lessees in the Park.  As an example, Iannicelli gave the lease offered to the Canopy Bluff group ($24,000 per acre).  Each acre in the commercial lot was calculated to be equivalent to 17.5 residential lots (3.5 lots per acre times 5 levels in the buildings).  Thus, the annual residential-lease equivalent for the commercial, waterfront property comes to $1,371.  Residential leases should not be set higher than those of entrepreneurs who use their leases to make a profit.

Marketing Committee

Marketing Director Eric Garvey introduced Mary Butin, head of the Butin Group, the Park’s current public-relations (PR) partner (since early summer 2009).  Butin described her firm as a boutique, midsized, nationally-oriented, marketing-communications firm located on St. Simons Island, specializing in lifestyle, travel, and consumer-brands PR.  Butin gave an energetic slide presentation describing her work with the Park Authority, which is organized on a project basis.  Butin foresees enormous national exposure for Jekyll Island State Park over the next two years regarding the upgrades planned.  Director Hooks remarked that he has worked with many PR firms of varying quality, and he is very pleased with Butin and her work.

Committee of the Whole

Tise Eyler strongly recommended that the Park Authority provide a discount for multiple-day parking fees, as opposed to the simple multiple of the $5 daily rate now in effect.  Chairman Krueger noted that this idea is already under consideration.

Pat Overholt observed that visitors to whom she speaks routinely state that the most attractive characteristic of Jekyll Island State Park is its unique absence of high-rises and presence of open spaces.  Families bring several bikes, and greatly enjoy riding through the beautiful, wooded paths.  Overholt called for emphasis on the low-density development as an attractant for families, who can now visit and vacation without spending large amounts of money.

Director Hooks announced a new policy with respect to forthcoming conventions to be held in the Park.  Kevin Udell will head up a group which will examine potential impacts of particular conventions, and take appropriate action.

Hooks reported that construction of the new Verizon cellphone tower will take place during the first quarter of 2010.

Hooks introduced two new Park employees: Dr. Jim Squires, the new General Manager at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (Dr. Terry Norton continues as Director of the Center); and Steve Bolin, the Park’s new code-enforcement officer at the Fire Department.

Hooks announced that HMI Management Holdings will soon close on the bulk purchase of 98 condominium units at Jekyll Oceanfront.  HMI has already purchased one condominium unit, for $207,000, with 2% of that sale price going to the Park Authority.

Landscape Superintendent Cliff Gawron described his plan for managing the Park’s causeway.  Gawron has assembled a team of consultants to put together the plan, including personnel from Glynn County, Coastal Wildscapes, Georgia DOT and EPD, Georgia DNR/CRD, and DNR non-game wildlife division.  Al Tate, formerly an ecologist with Fernbank, was also included.  The group considered areas of the causeway’s tree and shrub stands with respect to wildlife value (including terrapin nesting and shorebird nesting), inclusion of rare plants, scenic value, and blocking of distant scenery.  Mowing will not be performed during terrapin-nesting season.  DOT will mow following that season, with heavy equipment, and Park staff will mow three times when the grass is not so tall.  Wildflowers (mostly native) will be sown in three sites, rather than over the whole causeway.  Exotics will be removed (mostly tamarisk, chinaberry, and white mulberry).  Vista maintenance will be accomplished by clearing 1.3 miles of the causeway per year, by mechanical means.  A new stretch will be cleared in each of five successive years, and then the original 1.3-mile stretch will be recleared.  It is expected that this policy will result in healthier, more attractive stands of wax myrtle and saltbush.  Permanent, 1.5-mile distant vistas will also be cleared.  The diversity of plant stands resulting from the plan will not provide the extensive marsh vistas as seen on the causeway to St. Simons Island, but it will provide much more value to the Park’s wildlife than a nearly bare causeway like that to St. Simons.

Hooks announced that the Sea Turtle Center has been awarded an Americorps grant ($320 thousand), which will allow addition of several interns and an intern coordinator to the staff.

Chairman Krueger announced that there will be a groundbreaking for the new public park north of the Convention Center this December, and it is hoped that Governor Perdue will attend.

Frank Mirasola inquired whether the Park’s ordinances had been made more easily available for public review?  Answer: this job is still on the planning table, and it will fall to the new code-enforcement officer (Steve Bolin) to get this task completed.

Gloria Zocchi wondered whether the sea-turtle auto-license tag had come closer to being offered to citizens who want it?  Answer: the Authority has paid the manufacturing cost, and the plates are being prepared now.  The plates will be available for ordering through the local tag office.

Respectfully submitted,
Steven Y. Newell (with assistance from Gloria Zocchi), Jekyll Island Citizens Association