Recommendation 4-C: Clearly define the 65 percent of Jekyll Island that is required by law to remain in its natural condition; place the 65 percent natural area of Jekyll Island in a conservation easement to permanently protect it

The 65 percent of JI that is ineligible for development should be established and mapped to ensure that it cannot be infringed upon. Since all previous plans for Jekyll Island have recognized that the island’s foremost attraction is its natural environment and ecology, it would make sense that Jekyll’s development-free zone should consist of the island’s most environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas. Establishing a hierarchy of land use areas based upon their sensitivity would not only protect the island’s natural assets but identify for the JIA those areas that could be developed up to the 35 percent cap. Such a step would prevent the further occurrence of mistakes like the one made by the JIA in accepting a development plan by Linger Longer Communities which would have destroyed wetland areas, infringed upon the maritime forest, and commercialized an area designated by the 1996 Master Plan as a “nature preserve.”

An ideal way to secure the 65 percent natural area of Jekyll Island would be to place it in a conservation easement or land trust which would create a legally enforceable land preservation agreement for the purposes of conservation.  The agreement could designate the forms of land use that would be acceptable within the protected areas of the island—such as nature trails or pervious surface bike paths—and help guarantee the preservation of Jekyll’s natural areas in perpetuity.

- By Dr. Steven Y. Newell, Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia/former Director of Marine Institute at Sapelo Island [synewell@yahoo.com], and Mindy Egan, Co-Director, the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island [degan@igc.org]