Residents prize natural beauty

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JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. - For someone coming from another city in Georgia, particularly a larger one such as Atlanta or Savannah, it might take a moment to notice what's different about driving on the island.

There's not a traffic light anywhere.

And most like it that way.

"I think it's wonderful not to have a traffic light," said resident Jean Poleszak.

Welcome to Jekyll, a quaint, quiet small town on the sea that just happens to be a hot political topic.

To those who live there and some of the island's loyal visitors, the battle over the island isn't a faraway, abstract struggle. It is a fight for their home.

For Dory Ingram, who lives on Jekyll part time, large hotels and blocks of condominiums could compromise the state park's character.

"I think that the character and the scale of the island are definitely endangered," Ms. Ingram said.

But those working on the revitalization plan say they are fighting to protect Georgia's jewel from fading away.

"I believe that Jekyll's unique mix of history, natural resources and family-friendly accommodations will only be enhanced by the revitalization and redevelopment of portions of the island," authority executive director Bill Donohue wrote in an e-mail. "The current trajectory of declining hotel stays, golf games, user fees, etc. actually places the future conservation of Jekyll in jeopardy if not abated."

Longtime visitors and residents alike use the same basic words to describe Jekyll.

"It's folksy," said David Egan, who with his wife, Mindy, heads the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island. "It's got a charisma. It's got a personality of its own."

Mr. Egan said he and his group have no problem with redeveloping the hotels on Jekyll, as long as it's done in a way keeping with the island's identity.

"But do you have to sacrifice that traditional character in the process? I don't think so," Mr. Egan said.

There are knots of houses in a couple of places along Jekyll. A single retail strip across from the island's convention center serves as the only real shopping locale.

Both the convention center and strip would be gone under the plans being worked on for a centerpiece for the island.

"The proposals being considered all re-develop the current retail strip center and convention center into a Town Center ... There will likely be a housing component in the new town center, making this much more the 'center' of Jekyll Island," Mr. Donohue wrote.

The enhanced retail opportunities on a revamped Jekyll don't sit well with some.

"I don't need to have access to every commercial need, because that's not what I go to Jekyll for," said Babs McDonald, an Athens resident who regularly visits the island. "I don't go to Jekyll to shop."

The town center could also impinge on one of Mrs. Poleszak's favorite parts of the island: a beachside walkway and bike path that runs along much of the island.

"I don't think there's any place on the East Coast where you can really have a walk like that and have it be all natural," she said.

The natural beauty is Jekyll's most unique feature.

State law requires that 65 percent of the island remain untouched.

When Ms. Ingram first saw the island years ago, she had a profound experience: "I never knew what natural beach looked like."

But to some, the character of Jekyll isn't the charming, small-town island.

Instead, it conjures up images of shabby hotels and a lack of tourist amenities.

By that standard, said Ben Porter, the chairman of the Jekyll Island Authority's board, some revamping is needed.

"You change it for the better," he said, "because today the character of Jekyll is seen as tarnished and unattractive."

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karmakills123 09/18/07 - 07:49 am
"You change it for the

"You change it for the better," he said, "because today the character of Jekyll is seen as tarnished and unattractive." .......

Bullsh## !!!! Freakin developers have turned the coastline from South Florida all the way up the East coast into a concrete wall of condos...hiding the beaches form everyone who refuse to stay in those hidious boxex stacked on top of one wish is for a huge storm to wipe them out all along the entire East coast.........

gnx 09/18/07 - 08:38 am
Amen karma - I've watched the

Amen karma - I've watched the little islands I came from turn into boxed communities and it's a crying shame. I can't even begin to speak of how I feel about it. :-(

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