Conducting a comprehensive capacity study for Jekyll Island may sound to some people like just another way for the government to spend money on a plan that ultimately means very little.
The infrastructure study the Jekyll Island Authority is in the middle of, however, is already showing island leaders how future growth and increasing popularity will impact the island moving into the future.
The good news, so far, is that the infrastructure on Jekyll appears to be sufficient to handle future growth.
Among other things, the study is looking at things like future water and sewer usage, potential traffic issues and as was discussed at a recent meeting, parking on the authority-run state-park island.
Island officials learned on Tuesday that on 24 days out of the last year there were more cars on the island than actual parking spaces available. During those events and weekends, the authority must make special arrangements for the excess automobiles.
This illustrates two things. The first is that the revitalization of Jekyll Island has worked. The island is as popular as ever and programming, events and new and updated amenities are bringing more and more visitors to Georgia’s Jewell every year. That is without a doubt a very good thing. The island depends on visitors to operate, maintaining its status as a state park and its dedication to capping development at 33 percent.
The parking numbers also show, however, that some creative thinking may be necessary to ensure there is enough space for visitors as the island continues to bring more people to town.
The next big test will be in September when the annual Shrimp and Grits Festival makes its triumphant return following a hurricane-canceled event a year earlier. We hope the authority and its consultants conducting the study pay close attention to how parking and traffic flow goes that weekend. At the moment, everything works well with alternative parking plans. As the island becomes more popular, other options may need to be explored.
Jekyll Island has come into its own again. While the increased visitation and interest in the island may create some hurdles that need to be cleared to streamline operations, rest assured, it is a good problem to have.
We are confident the authority and other stakeholders have the tools and the smarts they need to keep Georgia’s Jewell running smoothly.