Thursday, January 17, 2008

01/14 - Letters: Jekyll Island

Date January 14, 2008
Section(s )Letters
The Brunswick News

Sen. Jeff Chapman speaks for a majority of Georgians who are displeased with how Linger Longer was chosen to 'revamp' Jekyll, displeased with their proposed plans that will NOT be affordable to all Georgians, displeased that they will reap profits and incentives from a State Park for which we pay taxes,displeased with the political influences that surround this situation, and surprised that people of even minimal intelligence cannot see through this sham! As for people 'trekking' to other beaches ...if you want nightlife and the actions that go along with this style, then you don't want Jekyll...a state park of peace, quiet, nature, wildlife and other God-given gifts.

Respectfully submitted,

Carol Sue Ravenel
Roswell, GA

I have read the editorial in the January 11, 2008 edition and the accompanying article by Jim Langford concerning the proposed development of Jekyll Island. There has been a lot of rhetoric on this project since it & iacute;s inception.

Some folks seem to be against any development & ntilde; THAT AIN & iacute;T GONNA HAPPEN. The new hotels will be built. A new convention center and a new attached convention hotel will be built. While they didn & iacute;t ask me it seems like a very reasonable location. The village center will be built somewhere close to the convention center. Whether it is on the beach or back off the beach probably should still be open for discussion.

The big item that seems to be problematic is the usurping of the public parking. I have seen the statistics of 1 minute, 2 minute and 3 minute parking for beach access. In my opinion, ready access to the beach means 1 à minutes to the beach. When the public comes to the beach, families show up with 3 kids, two beach chairs, a cooler and maybe a beach umbrella. They don & iacute;t need to be parked on a street parking lot and try to lug all this paraphernalia down to the waters edge. The existing beach access just north of the Days Inn hosts the beach festival and other public gatherings. This area could be extended north into the area where the current convention center is to be demolished to provide parking when the existing parking lot north of the convention center is abolished. It could be environmentally friendly and using the & igrave;porous surfaces & icirc; Jim Langford speaks of. If I interpret all the information correctly this area will be filled with hotels and condos in the future. That is probably the & igrave;wooly bugger & icirc; in this & igrave;BRILLIANT & icirc; plan.

I have seen many a large project outlined for construction. I have yet to see one come out with an opening plan that doesn & iacute;t get worked over until it is even a better plan. This plan still needs some work.

Ross F. Miller
Jekyll Island

I was alarmed to read the Commentary section attacking Senator Chapman's resolution concerning Jekyll Island. I applaud any senator who voices concern when the people's resources are being bid out and developed for profit.

I have worked in the tourism industry for many years, in fact I studied Heritage Tourism in college. I also lived in Savannah, Georgia for many years. We saw when companies began to see Bay Street as a gold mine. Within the last few years, many chains built hotels on empty parking lots or dilapidates sites. Now there are big beautiful hotels all along Bay Street. But was it necessary? No it was not.

The result of all of these hotels was that the existing hotels had to increase their prices to keep profits at the same levels. Now a family wanting to stay in downtown Savannah cannot afford it. Most average citizens stay outside of the historic district and drive in. The solution was to increase the amount of conventions. Convention Attendees are in meetings all day and venture out little. Now instead of having hotels full of families filling their days with activities, we have hundreds of people being held captive in a hotel,maybe spending one day on the town.

I am a tour guide, so I can see past the bed tax numbers the City of Savannah is receiving. Businesses are caving, tour companies are crying, museums are starving. So what is going to happen to Jekyll? Everyone agrees that the hotels need to be updated, but the Linger Longer plan is unnecessary and will complicate tourism to the island in the long run. According to the, Jekyll Island is categorized under the 'Hidden Gems' list. It states that 'Georgia is a great place to unwind,refresh,and invigorate.' Why would anyone want to accomplish those goals by fighting for parking around a 'green space', walking half a mile from their parking spot just to see the beach,and paying an outrageous hotel price and parking fees?

A plan to update Jekyll is needed, but condominiums and expensive hotels blocking our beach access will hinder rather than help us.

Missy Brandt
Darien, Ga

The recent editorials concerning developement on Jekyll island are amount to nothing more than a vicious attack on Senator Chapman and reveal a complete lack of understanding of the unique nature and value of Jekyll Island. The News welcomes a return to the islands 'heyday', which did not include any of the things that Linger Longer proposes. The draw of Jekyll Island is the beach and the fact that it is not spoiled by too much commercial or residetial developement. Condos and shopping are not needed to draw more visitors, a strong marketing plan that showcases the unique qualities that Jekyll posess's, pesenting it as a natural alternative to other overcrowded over developed destinations would bring more visitors. The facilities that are in place now need only to be updated and remodeled and all would be well. Jekyll is a rare and fragile natural resource unlike any other the state of Georgia owns, why turn it into just another unremarkable spot on the coast? The greed of a few real estate developers that why.

Paul Patterson
Gurley, Alabama

Dear Mr Langford -

Being experienced sorts, we always look a 'gift horse' in the mouth. We are rarely disappointed by finding nothing interesting.

1. Restore or Revitalize Jekyll -

We see no need to do anything : It suits us fine just the way it is, except as noted below.

2. Residential Development -

There is no need for further residential development of ANY sort on Jekyll. What exists now is obviously the product of some political boondoggle in the past of the same nature as what Linger Longer is trying to advance now.

What is more, over time, the residences now present on Jekyll should be gradually ELIMINATED -- They should be bought and bulldozed by a private charitable trust whenever they come up for sale, purchased at a proper -- not a firesale -- valuation.

3. Public Acces Will in Fact be Impacted -- Grossly -

The idea of scattering the public parking lots thruout the development is an inspired move -- a clever trick -- on LL's part.

Should this development actually take place (God Forbid), a few years down the road, the residents whose properties are adjacent to public parking areas (which includes almost all of them) will complain vigorously to the State and the County that their peace is being disturbed by the endless stream of outsider beach users running about the lots, walkways and streets of the development. They will insist that these parking lots therefore be closed and our dutiful politicians will of course accomodate them with a knowing, sly grin. This will provide space for a number of new infill residences of one kind or another.

We do not trust Linger Longer and we do not trust the politicians of the State nor of the County : We have no reason to do so (*). What will happen will be what you have already privately planned with the politicians, with, we are sure, the distribution of appropriate honoraria disguised as 'consulting fees'.

Even were we in favor of this project, we would demand IRON BOUND contracts and tens of millions of dollars in performance bonds from ALL parties involved, a provision that LL would doubtlessly decline.

(*) Consider, for examnple, the Craig Field Airport controversy in Jacksonville and the dishonorable behavior of Jacksonville's mayor in this matter.

Mr Langford, we do not know about all of our Brunswick neighbors, but WE were not born yesterday.

Incidentally, as a girl, Loretta used to visit the ruins of Jekyll with her father when it was, indeed, all a shambles.

Allen & amp; Loretta Wollscheidt

Brunswick, GA
Jekyll Island Project,

My comments and then a solution to this problem is this, I think the whole project is just to close to the beach and they do not allow traffic to drive staight through next to the beach. You have to go about 2 miles around to get to the other side. That to me takes away the beauty and enjoyment of a lovely scenic drive next to the beach. I saw the maps of the project and it shows that as soon as you get on Jekyll Island that all you see now is a detour to the right or left to go around the project and a bunch of buildings and trees everywhere. This to me is just one step closer to being just like Sea Island, where now they have guard gates and no public is free to come in. Sea Island did have public beaches but now you can not go to them unless you pay to stay at the hotels over there. That to me is taking away the freedom of the public access and giving it to the rich. That is wrong and Jekyll Island can become just like this too one day. My solution to Jekyll Island is this, I think that there should be a two way street, with palm trees in the middle, straight to the beach and parking on both sides at an angle. Then I think there should be a two way street next to the beach all the way through the project, with palm trees in the middle, and have parking at an angle on both sides. Then there can be plenty of access parking and if you want to just drive and see the beautiful beach, you can. In other words, I think their whole project should be back away from the beach about 40 yards or 120 feet and allow the access of the public to have their freedom to the beach still without pushing back their project to far from the beach also. This will be great for everyone's enjoyment and freedom of public access close to the beach.

Wayne Rhodes
Brunswick, GA

I never thought The Brunswick News would let a corporation write its editorial - but I must say - your 1/11/08 editorial sounds like a clone from Linger Longer with added touches by certain legislators who really are all about the money!! They never tell the public that the JIA is still operating with a profit and that the "old" Convention Center is full much of the time and used most of the time. They don't own up to the last 4+ years of "purposeful neglect" of the facilities on the island - or that indeed, the JIA was/is responsible for seeing that hotels on the island keep in shape or lose their leases.

And Linger Longer's spokesman, Jim Langford, maintains that their plan is "fluid' - but if that is true - why is he so defensive about every inch of that overbearing plan?

By the way - isn't WATER a big problem in this state of ours? Why is the new Canopy Bluff Hotel being allowed to build 5 swimming pools with their complex? Ask the JIA.

And is there enuf water/infrastructure/etc. on Jekyll, and in good enuf condition, to withstand 5000 people per day or more? The JIA may say yes - but they know better. Don't let anyone kid you - the proposed development on JI is all about the money -- for a few. Not about a re-vitalization of the State Park's facilities.

Do not disparage our State Senator Jeff Chapman and please stop misquoting him. He is doing his job in trying to represent the people and protect Jekyll Island State Park.

Jean Poleszak
Jekyll Island, GA

I was astonished by the vitriol and meanness present in your editorial criticizing Senator Chapman for soliciting input from the citizens of Georgia regarding plans for Jekyll Island.

The editorial sounds amazingly like a hatchet job against Senator Chapman.

A reasonable editorial would have acknowledged Senator Chapman's pivotal role in saving the south end of Jekyll Island from development by unanimous vote in last year's legislative session.

A reasonable editorial would have acknowledged that there are literally thousands of Georgia citizens who do not agree with your position that putting a 64 acre resort-style development consisting of hundreds of hotel rooms, condos and shops on the beach of Jekyll Island State Park is a good thing. There have been many well reasoned editorials and commentary in many papers throughout this state and Florida discussing the issue. But I have never seen such stridency and mean-spiritedness anywhere else.

A reasonable editorial would not cast Senator Chapman in the position of seeming to call Governor Perdue, and legislative leaders liars. He has never done that. Reasonable people can disagree. Politicians can disagree. Senator Chapman may be disagreeing with these political leaders on this issue, but that is what our democracy is all about. Or am is mistaken, and someone has changed the rules about political discourse in this country?

Or are we to accept that our leaders are infallible and know without a doubt what is best for us? That sounds very un-American to me.

A reasonable editorial would have examinined the recent history of Jekyll Island, and noted the various factors contributing to the decline in visitors. Three of the major hotels are demolished. They are to be rebuilt. Visitors will increase when they are rebuilt. That seems simple enough. With the hotels replaced there will be a return to the "heyday" of Jekyll, apart from the issue of the Linger Longer project.

One can only wonder at the reason for such editorial stridency and one-sidedness from a major state newspaper.

Joan Lardin
Hawkinsville, GA

I was dismayed to read your commentary on Jan. 11, 2008, and about Jeff Chapman and Jekyll Island. I have been closely following the development situation on Jekyll Island. I have yet to meet anyone in Georgia who is in favor of the current Linger Longer development plans. Developers and the JIA, apparently out of touch with the citizens of Georgia, see these plans as positive. These plans will rob sea turtles of their nesting sites, cost Georgia taxpayers millions of dollars for infrastructure, and in the end the average Georgian would not be able to afford the condos, timeshares and hotels they paid for. Of course Jim Langford as a developer posed to make a fortune is in favor of the development plans. I applaud Jeff Chapman's efforts to protect the last remaining barrier island of Georgia. Sensible ecology friendly development can and should be done. Georgia and Georgians will benefit from this. Jeff Chapman realizes that Jekyll Island is the Jewel of Georgia.

Robin Revennaugh

The cover of Linger Longer;s brochure reads,


It should read,


We did come to the island as children and remember the excitement of crossing the bridge and the thrill of seeing the ocean. Then the race would begin, as we would spring from the family car to see who could be the first to jump into the ocean. Our parents would follow with wagons of toys, dogs on leashes, coolers, umbrellas and everything imaginable to make our special day at the beach complete.

And yes, even to this day I come with my grandchildren and see the same delight in their eyes. Jekyll's unique environment has survived since the 16th century due to those who have left their mark carefully so as to preserve the island's precious resources. And so.... for it to always continue, it was declared a "state park" in 1971 so as to preserve our island for all who wish to come for a day or a week and bask in the glory of nature on our own golden jewel.

It is hard for man's creations to weather on an island over time. And, yes the island's hotels and recreational facilities need sprucing and refurbishing and or re-built but not to the extent that Linger Longer wants. Their proposal calls for all beachfront condos, hotels, shops, restaurants, and a new huge convention center to be built along nearly the entire span of our state park's beautiful beach and thusly will eliminate our four beachside public parking lots. But... for those of us who want to come for the day, Linger Longer Development promises to provide us beach access via walking paths between buildings with parking lots located way too far for us and our little ones along with their grandparents to walk to the beach. And.... sadly, all of these "beachfront accommodations" that they plan to build will be not affordable to all who wish to come for an extended stay during the summer season. Oh yes, maybe we can come and vacation during the winter when the hotel rates will drop and therefore will be more affordable in the off-season.

This development by Linger Longer represents a huge monetary gain for the developer along with the politicians who orchestrated the present redevelopment plan of Jekyll.

What will have happen to our beautiful dunes and our island's beachfront habitat? They cannot survive, as they were never meant to be replaced with miles of buildings and beach venues. Our turtles, birds and wildlife will lose their beloved island, as we will all.... Our legacy will be gone forever and so will all the past and future memories of all those who have and would had visited our precious jewel..... Jekyll Island.

Mardi Brooks
Brunswick, Georgia

Dear Editor,

I must confess that I am confused. In your January 11 editorial about Sen. Chapman's opposition to the Linger Longer development plans for Jekyll Island you mention that Jekyll has been in need of "apparatus to rescue distressed swimmers" and "funding to make repairs to the wave pool at Summer Waves waterpark." I have not seen the plan as submitted by Linger Longer, but from what I have read, it does not address these issues. So far as I know, it also does not address the serious dune erosion problem. You must be seeing something in the Linger Longer proposal that will address these needs that I am not seeing, and I would truly appreciate knowing about this part of the proposal.

I have been a regular visitor to Jekyll Island for the last 15 to 20 years, first while I was a GA resident for nearly 50 years and now as a MA resident, working on a Ph.D. I still return to Jekyll Island annually. For many years even before they were torn down I refused to stay at the hotels. They were not well maintained, and the last time I stayed in one they were not well staffed either. I have rented a cottage each summer for over 10 years. There seems to be very little decline in cottage rental; I still must make August reservations not later than May to get the cottage accommodation that I want. I'm not sure where the tourism decline figure originated, but it apparently did not originate from the folks who rent out cottages.

Jekyll Island clearly needs some hotels to replace those that were demolished. To say, however, that a resort development along the ecologically fragile stretch of beach where Linger Longer wants to put an upscale resort is what Jekyll needs seems to be quite a stretch. Given that Sen. Chapman and his constituency actually live on Jekyll Island or at least nearby, their thoughts on what is needed for Jekyll Island take into consideration some identified needs that Linger Longer apparently has not yet recognized or made plans to address. Perhaps Linger Longer is more aware of the needs of coastal areas in North Carolina; they don't seem to be as well informed about the needs of Jekyll Island, GA.

Susan L. DeHoff
Shrewsbury, MA

"Since 1990, visitation on the island has dropped - no, plunge is more like it - by an alarming 47 percent." The Brunswick News 1/11/08

I don't know the basis for the oft quoted 47% reduction in our visitors. It could be based on hotel count which is down.

Perhaps a more relevant count is the toll booth revenue which shows little variation from FY94 to FY06.

Parking revenue and Visitors at $2.00 per entry

FY94 FY95 FY96

643,909 665,399 618,520

321,955 332,700 309,260

and revenue/visitors at $3.00 per entry

FY02 FY03 FY04 FY05 FY06


1,171,994 1,138,404 1,105,729 1,074,157 1,123,428

390,665 379,468 368,576 358,052 374,476

These data come from the JIA annual budget report.

FY05, FO6, and FY07 should be updated.

Lucien DeBacker
Jekyll Island, Georgia

1 comment:

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