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Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island
IPJI Newsletter  Summer 2016
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Dear friends of Jekyll Island,
Here it is - - the Summer 2016 edition of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island's Newsletter. As you will see, the landscape of Jekyll Island continues to change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much.

We welcome your comments/questions regarding the Newsletter and appreciate your continued support of IPJI's effort to preserve Jekyll's traditional character, wildlife habitats and natural communities.

David and Mindy Egan, Co-Directors, IPJI
912-635-2167 (H)   912-577-4655 (C)

"Once your feet touch the sands of Jekyll Island, you'll always come back."
Jekyll's Golden Islander
Golf Course Master Plan Announced:
Future of Oleander Course in Doubt
The Jekyll Island Authority has commissioned the consulting division of the National Golf Foundation (NGF) to complete a comprehensive Master Plan for Jekyll's golf courses. Key elements to be considered include determining the optimal number of golf holes that are economically sustainable, and identifying any reconfiguration of the courses that may be required to meet the identified threshold of golf holes.

Earlier this year, the JIA board revealed a possible golf course reconfiguration that would eliminate the back nine holes of the Oleander course. The front nine of Oleander would be paired with the Great Dunes 9-hole course to make a new 18-hole course. 
The JIA has said there are no immediate plans for how the back nine holes of Oleander would be utilized. However, the conversion of that area into a residential community or condo complex has previously been considered by the JIA and cannot be ruled out this time around.
Driftwood Beach under Assault!

It's hard to believe, but some visitors to Driftwood Beach have been cutting pieces of driftwood and taking them as 'souvenirs' or for sale to others. These acts of vandalism have prompted the JIA to post signs noting the Authority's ordinance prohibiting such actions and specifying the fine for those caught doing so. Unfortunately, the sign placed at the widely-used Clam Creek pathway to Driftwood Beach has been stolen. IPJI has urged the JIA to replace the pilfered sign and has offered to pay for it as well.

If you see people abusing Driftwood Beach, please kindly advise them of the importance of protecting and preserving this special place on Jekyll Island.
Whisky, Wine and Wildlife Festival Embarrasses Jekyll Island

The inaugural Whiskey, Wine and Wildlife (W3) Festival, which the JIA spent more than $300,000 to stage and promote, was held in Jekyll's Beach Village this past February. The idea of a food and spirits festival to bring visitors to Jekyll during the slow season seems fine, but by including an "all you can drink for one price" component in the W3, the JIA opened the door for behavior unfit for a family-friendly state park. Particularly inappropriate were inebriated festival participants who were seen vomiting on the sidewalk in the Beach Village and along one of the Village's shops, and the 'spirited' couples who engaged in X-rated dancing on the Village Green adjacent to the beach-side bike path and in clear view of passersby with children.

In IPJI's opinion, if the W3 is to be an annual event, "pay per drink" should replace "all you can drink for one price" in order to reduce the chance of a recurrence of the unsightly behavior that marred this year's festival.  
Third Hotel to Be Built in Jekyll's Beach Village?

For the past eight years, the JIA has been trying to enlist a company to build a third hotel in Jekyll's Beach Village. Each time success in this regard seemed to be imminent, the deal could not be sealed. Most recently, Mandala Holdings (Orlando, FL) was selected by the JIA to build a limited service hotel on the site in question, but within a month the deal, like its predecessors, fell through.  On August 19th, the JIA released the names of the four companies that submitted proposals this time around: Carolina Holdings (the developer of "The Cottages at Jekyll Island" and a partner in "The Residences at Jekyll Island" project); Georgia Coast Holdings (the developer and owner of the Jekyll Holiday Inn Resort); Buckhead America Hospitality (the owner of the Jekyll Quality Inn); and SAI Capital Group.

IPJI has contended that if the elusive third hotel is to be added to the Beach Village, it should have room rates far less costly than the other two hotels in the Beach Village -- the upscale Westin Hotel and Jekyll Island Ocean Suites. Jekyll needs a new affordable hotel!
Dining Options Continue to Expand on Jekyll

Visitors and residents have been looking forward to more dining options on Jekyll for some time. For news on the new restaurants and those planned for the future
Two Beachfront Housing Projects Underway

Construction of the 125 "Cottages at Jekyll Island"on the site of the former Oceanfront Resort is nearing the halfway point. The starting price for the Cottages is now in the low $400,000 range, up nearly $100,000 since the conceptual plan was first introduced. For details on the Cottages, click here.   

A conceptual plan for 40 homes ("The Residences") to be built just north of Jekyll's Hampton Inn & Suites was presented at the June JIA board meeting. The starting price for the homes is expected to be in the $600,000 range. To view the specs and the varying home designs, click here.  
Westin Hotel Suspends on-the Beach, Motorized Delivery of Amenities

This past spring, Jekyll's Westin hotel stated that, for the 2016 summer season, it would not be resuming on-the beach, motorized vehicular delivery of beach services to its customers. Instead, those services, which had been transported on the beach from Great Dunes Park to the Westin by an ATV towing a flatbed trailer, are now being delivered by hand from the hotel to the beach. The hotel did not indicate why this decision was made or why it apparently applies to this year only.

Nearly 1,200 Jekyll visitors and residents participated in an IPJI survey on the Westin's controversial beach driving enterprise, the results of which were shared with the JIA and the Westin's general manager as well as the media. Ninety-six percent of the survey's participants said "no" to commercial traffic being allowed on Jekyll's beach, with many folks providing detailed comments in support of their objection to the Westin's disregard for the natural beauty and serenity of Jekyll's beach. Clearly, the Westin's ill-advised beach driving experiment, which was approved by the JIA, remains one of the most unpopular ventures in the recent history of Jekyll Island State Park.

For a slideshow depicting IPJI's bumper sticker campaign opposing the Westin's beach driving operation, click here
Beach Access for the Disabled Becomes Contentious Issue 

Currently, Jekyll's three designated beach access ramps for the disabled stop well short of the hard-packed sand and the typical high-tide line, leaving a mobility-challenged person stuck with as much as thirty feet of soft sand to negotiate to get to the hard packed sand, where a wheelchair can function adequately. For the past year, advocates for the disabled have urged the JIA to deal with this problem, but the JIA, while making some concessions and promising to look into the issue further, has, according to critics, resisted taking the measures needed for access to the beach itself, which include:
  • widening the narrow ramp at Jekyll's Beach Village to allow wheelchairs, families with strollers or beach gear to pass each other as they go to and from the beach
  • extending existing mobi-mats (flexible, plastic mats that are wheelchair-friendly) to the hard-packed sand
  • keeping mobi-mats free of blowing and drifting sand and roll them up during extreme tide conditions
  • development of a Beach Management Plan, in cooperation with the DNR, to facilitate handicap access and deal with other beach management issues in an effective manner
IPJI has encouraged the JIA to do its best to provide direct beach access for all, and to include representatives from the disabled community in planning how best to accomplish and evaluate this task. For additional details and media coverage, click here.
More Transparency Provided for JIA Board Meetings 

As a result of IPJI's efforts to encourage the JIA to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act, the detailed packet of materials sent to the members of the JIA's board of directors prior to their monthly meeting is now available to the public the Friday before each meeting. To read the agenda and the packet of materials sent to the board's members, go to  http://www.jekyllisland.com/jekyll-island-authority/ scroll down to "Board of Directors," and you will see links to the agenda and materials for each meeting listed below the names of the board's members. Materials and minutes for previous meetings are also available online at that link.
Sea Turtle Nesting Numbers Soar for 2016

The Jekyll Island Lighting Survey conducted on June 22 by the DNR and JIA recorded violations of Jekyll's beach lighting ordinance at Tortuga Jack's restaurant, the Westin Hotel, and the Days Inn. Overall, though, there were fewer violations affecting sea turtle nesting habitat than found in last year's beach lighting survey.

To date, the number of sea turtle nests along the Georgia coast indicates that 2016 could be a near record year for nesting. Global monitoring of sea turtle nesting by seaturtle.org shows that, as of August 5th, there have been 3,277 nests along the Georgia coast, with Jekyll Island accounting for 168 nests Way to go sea turtles!!
Jekyll Island Club Hotel Acquired by Connecticut Corporation

A 65% controlling interest in the Jekyll Island Club Hotel has been acquired by the Connecticut-based company Northview Hotel Group. Northview will be investing $18 million dollars Club Hotel improvements, which will include guestroom upgrades, enhancement of the swimming pool and surrounding area, and the addition of a spa and salon.

Northview has also acquired a majority interest in the high-end Jekyll Island Ocean Suites, which is located next to Jekyll's Westin Hotel and is now under construction. Click here to see the Club Suites brochure, which includes room rates. 
Jekyll's 4-H Center to Be Replaced by "Camp Jekyll"

Camp Jekyll, which will replace the long-standing and highly popular Jekyll 4-H Center, will be completed by the end of the year at a cost of $17,000,000 -- to be paid for by the state, courtesy of an initiative by Gov. Nathan Deal. The new facility, which will be available for use by a variety of organized youth groups, will be owned by the JIA and managed by the 4-H.
Shrimp and Grits Festival Slated for Mid-September

This year's Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival, which is organized by the JIA and presented by Southern Living, will be held on September 16-18 in Jekyll's Historic District. More than 100 art and craft vendors are expected to participate in the festival, which will include live music, a wide range of food, a craft brew fest, wildlife demonstrations, a kid-friendly fun zone, and a cooking contest for the best shrimp and grits dish. If you come, arrive early to avoid heavy traffic and parking challenges. For additional information, click here.