Saturday, November 3, 2007


The Florida Times-Union

October 26, 2007
Times-Union Correspondent

JEKYLL ISLAND - People looking for quick access to the ocean might find it a little more frustrating to get to Jekyll Island's main beach once the new town square center has been built. That's because the design, which proposes placing upscale condos, hotels and retail outlets next to seaside dunes, does not include a big, beachside parking lot.

Town square developer Linger Longer Communities says there will be plenty of nearby parking for beachgoers in the new Village's interior. The parking plan includes leaving a small portion of a big parking lot north of the island convention center and adding parking along new streets, said James Langford, Linger Longer's project manager.

But critics think the plan doesn't give Jekyll's day visitors enough consideration.

Parking next to the beach might seem like a remote concern to those used to the 4.5 acres of beachside parking lining Jekyll's beach today. But some beachgoers have begun to think about what the area would be like without it.

Sandra Williamson of Townsend says she and her husband often bring their grandchildren to the beach. When they do, they park in Jekyll's beachside lots.

"It is very nice to have rest rooms and changing areas for the family right at the beach," she said. "We make several trips back and forth between the car and the beach. We can easily keep a cooler in the car with bottles of water and snacks for the children."

Williamson said she is "horrified" at the idea of losing the quick beach access.

David Egan of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, a group that favors restrained development, notes Linger Longer's largest parking area holds 960 vehicles and lies a quarter mile from the beach at its farthest point.

"It's wrong to put the main public parking a quarter of a mile away. This is one of the most densely used parts of the beach," he said .

Langford said the large lot is meant to serve convention center visitors and will keep convention traffic away from the beach, freeing up parking nearby for beach visitors.

There will be no beachside lots, he concedes, but street parking will lie right next to the dunes in some places. An 88-space lot at the retail center and a hotel lot over-designed by 150 spaces will offer extra public parking within 200 yards of the beach.

"On a summer day when it's very busy at the beach, it will be full," he said. "But those with children will be close to the beach. We've got plenty of parking in the town square center to accommodate them."

And the pervious surfaces in the new parking areas will be more friendly to the environment by reducing the runoff that occurs now from the large, asphalt lots, Langford said.

The large number of beachside lots on Jekyll today, which rarely fill, are not necessary, said Bill Crane, spokesperson for the Jekyll Island Authority, the park's governing body.

"To put surface lots [there] is a waste of that land. It would be more desirable for hotels, retail and residences," he said. These are amenities that put people in touch with the beach, he said.

But Egan says placing high-priced amenities on the beach and moving the bulk of parking inland - along with Jekyll's affordable hotels - sends a message.

"It says the first clientele being accommodated is not Jekyll's day visitors," he said. "It says you are not a priority."

Langford doesn't necessarily contradict Egan's point.

"People coming to the town square center area are probably there to do more than just go to the beach," he said. "And they are going to get to park right in the middle of all of that." A COMPARISON Main beach parking today Deck parking lot: 260 spaces Picnic parking areas: 40 spaces North surface lot: 500 to 600 spaces Normal summer traffic: Deck parking lot half to three-quarters full. Picnic lots partially used. North lot rarely used. At peak traffic: 5,520 cars pass through the gate for the entire island. Deck parking fills. North lot does not. New Town Square Center public parking Retail center lot (within 200 yards of the beach): 88 spaces Hotel parking garage (within 200 yards of the beach): 350 spaces, shared with the 200-room hotel Convention Center parking garage and lot one-quarter mile from the beach at its farthest point: 960 spaces, shared with a 400-room hotel and 160 timeshare units Street parking: 772 spaces distributed across 64 acres. Two short stretches line the beach. Sources: Jekyll Island marketing director Eric Garvey; Linger Longer Communities

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