Jekyll Island’s campground expansion is literally years in the making, and barring an unexpected development within the next month or so, 12 additional acres will get the green light and provide not only space that’s in-demand, but new and updated facilities to better handle campers who come to the island year-round.
Tagging along with the campground expansion are plans for a new public safety complex that would enhance the island’s emergency response capabilities for not only fire and rescue, but law enforcement as well, with the Georgia State Patrol moving its post onto the island to better respond to calls for service.
Jekyll Island’s master plan needs amending to accomplish both projects, and a public meeting on those changes took place Thursday evening at the convention center.
Presently, the Jekyll campground regularly gets maxed out on space and people have to be turned away.
“If you’re calling, and you’re looking for space, usually the spaces that are left are small and, I will say, awkward spaces,” said Jones Hooks, Jekyll Island Authority executive director. “Because it may be that they’re under trees that dip down, oak trees that dip down pretty low. Today, we have some RVs that just will not fit into those spaces. So when we get up to about 80 percent occupancy, then we have to pretty much figure that we’re at full occupancy for that period. As a result of that, we’re experiencing about 30-50 calls daily for reservations that go unfilled.”
The 1996 master plan suggested adding 26 acres to the campground site, but by the time an update went through in 2014, the consensus settled on 12 acres — acreage that’s already baked into the overall development limit for the island. Presently, the recognized amount of developed land is 1,609 acres, and that includes the 12 that are to be added to the present campground footprint.
The 2014 master plan ended the old percentage basis for Jekyll development and instead instituted specific acreage limits. The development limit for the island is set at 1,675 acres, and 1,597 were converted to development as of Jan. 1, 2014. Also included in that limit are 12 acres for campground expansion, 20 acres for unrestricted use and 46 acres for public health, public safety or public recreation.
The expansion, if approved, would take those 12 off the table, and the new public safety complex — tentatively planned to go in near the miniature golf course — would take three acres away from the 46. If everything goes as planned, when it’s all over with there will be 1,612 developed acres with 43 in reserve for public health/safety/recreation and 20 in reserve for unrestricted use.
The campground expansion — an area in a roughly crescent shape directly east and adjacent to the present grounds — would include 54 sites, 29 pull-throughs, six yurts, a new check-in area, a new store, and involve added and upgraded bathhouse and restrooms.
Regarding a new public safety complex, among the reasons the JIA is seeking to do so is, for one, the present station can’t fit a ladder truck because the roof’s too low. There also needs to be additional sleeping quarters and a fix for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance problems.
“The reason to amend the master plan in this case is what we’ve been talking about, and that is the idea that there are issues with the present fire station,” Hooks said. “There’s also issues as far as the ISO rating, saying we don’t necessarily like where the fire station is located. And then there is also a third component that needs to be explored, and that is the idea of collaborating with the Georgia State Patrol.”
The new complex would also be outfitted “to better accommodate a more gender-inclusive staff.”
Bringing fire and GSP under one roof in a central location would, it’s hoped, provide better emergency response, decrease response time to beach incidents and allow GSP to be on the island 100 percent of the time instead of out on the causeway.
The facility would be around 15,500 square feet.
Barring an objection from the legislative oversight committee on Jekyll Island, the JIA board will consider approval of the master plan amendments at its meeting in December.
The amendments and the presentation slides are both available on The News and the JIA websites. Public comment is open through the weekend and can be submitted at jekyllisland.com/jekyll-island-authority/ master-plan.