Recommendation 3-C:   Provide for a Jekyll Island State Park that is affordable for citizens of ordinary income 

The Jekyll Island State Park Authority Act (1950) calls for “the operation of the public facilities of the park at rates so moderate that all of the ordinary citizens of the State may enjoy them.” This unique legislative mandate, which is recognized in both the 1996 and 2004 Master Plans, has guided Jekyll’s development for more than half a century, giving millions of people who ordinarily could not afford to vacation on the coast an opportunity to do so. 

There are, however, a number of indications that the future of an affordable Jekyll Island State Park may not be secure, including:

  • The ill-defined nature of the JIA’s official guidelines on affordability
  • The JIA’s contention that Jekyll’s affordability mandate may not apply to private development within the state park, including hotels, condos and time-shares
  • The JIA’s recent interest in several high-end condo projects, including one in which the average unit would sell for nearly a million dollars.
  • The JIA’s reversal of plans to include an economy hotel in the soon to be built Jekyll town center which will feature a four-star hotel and an upscale, mid-service hotel

Of particular concern is the trend toward higher priced lodgings. While there is nothing wrong with the concept of having accommodations on Jekyll Island that provide a range of price points, it is difficult to imagine how the spirit and intent of the state park's founding legislation can be honored unless  the majority of the island's lodgings are affordable for the majority of people. Accommodations priced with ordinary income citizens in mind should, therefore, be the norm for future hotel redevelopment projects, four of which are supposed to be undertaken during the next few years.

The revised Master Plan should address the above concerns by reinforcing the importance of Jekyll Island's state park mission and by urging the JIA to honor its statutory responsibility regarding affordability when renovating or further developing the state park’s accommodations and facilities. 

- By David Egan, Co-Director, The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island [degan@igc.org]