Jekyll Island Authority Encourages Public Participation
in Master Plan Review Process
On July 28, the Jekyll Island Authority issued a statement explaining the purpose of the Request for Information (RFI) relevant to the revision of the Jekyll Island Master Plan and the role to be played by public input in the Master Plan update process. In several instances, the statement emphasizes the Authority’s interest in receiving comments and input in response to the RFI from any individual or group.
Due to an oversight by the JIA's Communications Office, neither a press release nor public notice was issued at the time the RFI was announced. The JIA has since issued a series of public notices, clarified the place of public input in the Master Plan process, and is encouraging any individual or group to respond to the RFI.
Because of the inadvertent delay in issuing a statement informing the public about the RFI, the JIA has extended the deadline for RFI submittals by three weeks, to September 17th and is now allowing responses to be sent by email – email@example.com – whereas previously postal mail was the only way to submit RFI responses.
It is encouraging to see the JIA go the extra mile to advise the public about the RFI and how to get involved in the review of the Master Plan. We trust that this time around public input will actually be taken into account.
As some of you may recall, when public input was solicited for the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Jekyll town center project back in 2007, IPJI gathered written statements from Jekyll visitors regarding the town center concept and how it might best be realized. Those statements—most of which called for a modest sized town center free of condominiums and timeshares—were compiled by IPJI into a booklet and given to JIA board members and to the consultant (Ken Bleakly) who helped the JIA write the RFP. However, not one board member acknowledged receipt of the booklet and none of the recommendations made in good faith by hundreds of Jekyll’s friends were recognizable in the RFP. Instead, we ended up with a town center plan that was so bad in so many respects, and so unpopular with the general public, that it eventually had to be abandoned in favor of the much smaller town center plan that the JIA is now in the process of implementing.
In view of past history, it would seem appropriate, as an RFI response, to recommend that the Master Plan update be preceded by the formulation of an official JIA public input and participation process that is consistent with best practices in public land planning and will guide the Authority in its effort to intimately involve the public in planning for Jekyll Island’s future.
Public participation in the planning process is not just an ideal, it is a practical means of blending management requirements and public preferences. By closely involving citizens throughout the planning process, public land managers, in case after case across the nation, have been more able to reach responsible and defensible decisions on park operations, changes and improvements. If public participation programs elsewhere have enhanced opportunities for mutual learning, created a sense of citizen ownership in the land planning, resulted in better planning in the long run, and have contributed to successful implementation of plans for public land management, they can do the same for Jekyll Island State Park.