On September 18, 2021, the Jekyll Island Authority Board approved the final draft of the state park’s Master Plan Update (MPU), which was then sent to the Jekyll Island Legislative Oversight Committee for approval. The Master Plan is, by law, the guiding document for the island and is therefore vitally important for the state park’s future. The MPU has met with extensive criticism from the general public and advocacy groups. The primary concern deals with the lack of controls in the MPU on redevelopment within the state park. In the past decade, 220 homes have been built on the island, increasing the total number of residences by more than one-third. Larger hotels with more rooms have been rebuilt on other sites. Today, the site of the old convention center has a larger convention center, three hotels and a restaurant and retail center. And now, the JIA is turning its attention to development on recreational land – the golf course complex. On October 18, 2021, the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, along with the Center for a Sustainable Coast and One-Hundred Miles, sent a joint letter to the Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC) and Governor Kemp which detailed the problems in the MPU. The letter also and offered solutions which include requiring a moratorium on development and the creation of a Capacity Plan to ensure development does not overrun the island. On October 25, 2021, apparently based on public concern, the JIA sent a revised version of the MPU to the (LOC). Although the revisions attempt to assuage those concerns, they fall woefully short in doing so since the revised language does not include actions that, in fact, control development. Instead, the revision continues to rely on mitigation strategies to ease the strain on capacity, and it simply states the JIA “must consider” how future development will affect the island’s character. “Considering” an issue is not the same thing as doing something about it. “Inviting” public comment on redevelopment is not the same as embracing it.
It is clear that Jekyll’s patrons have voiced their feelings that the JIA is failing in its responsibility to continue the legacy of protecting Jekyll Island State Park from overdevelopment. Intervention by the governor and/or legislature is needed to compel the JIA to do so.