RECOUNTS CITIZENS' EFFORTS TO PROTECT JEKYLL ISLAND
August 8, 2010
that begins with the words "I love public land" and is dedicated
to "the thousands of citizens who have consistently and persistently
opposed . . . commercial, timeshare, and condominium development"
on a coastal island should appeal to many people. The dedication goes
on to acknowledge those "who work for the establishment, protection,
and preservation of public lands everywhere." Although this book
is about the commercial and political forces that threaten Jekyll Island
State Park, Ga., the principles should resonate anywhere powerful individuals
and corporations decide that personal profits should outweigh the preferences
of the general public.
Jekyll Island" (2010, Langdon Street Press, Minneapolis, $14.95)
by Babs McDonald gives an inside view of the history of what she refers
to as "inappropriate planning" by the Jekyll Island Authority.
The authority was created to oversee conservation, development, and management
of the island. Yet some citizens became actively involved in thwarting
development of the island as proposed by the authority because they thought
the plan would reduce public access to the magnificent coastal habitats.
A primary threat was an increase in private development and restricted-access
housing areas. Jekyll Island State Park is currently open to the public
and belongs to all the people; the idea of private development was viewed
by some as unacceptable.
I feel certain
that a book written by the Jekyll Island Authority about their process
of decision making, planning, and management would offer explanations
for the authority's actions. And such a book might be appropriate, because
in McDonald's opinion the members of the authority have "got some
'splainin' to do." For example, she states that the way the authority
appears "to discount public opinion, deflect public scrutiny, and
act with impunity may be related to its accountability to Georgia's governor."
feature of the book is the chapter titled "What You Can Do."
If you don't like the way a publically owned area such as a national or
state park is being treated, you can take action. Some of the suggestions
are geared to Jekyll Island but they have generic applicability and would
work in many different situations. For example, set up a website and let
people join your effort. Give away free bumper stickers ("Save .
. ."). One suggestion that I am always in favor of is to contact
your local newspaper or any others whose readers are interested in the
ecological issue. And let us not forget elected officials, who often have
great influence. They seem to be more attuned to the public interest when
they realize that their actions are under scrutiny.
Jekyll Island" details efforts to protect a specific place. But it
has general applicability to any place where public habitats and natural
environments are vulnerable to political maneuvering and self-serving
justification by people with an eye on personal profit.
of Gifford Pinchot in 1910 express the environmental spirit that many
people, probably a majority, would like to achieve. Pinchot, the first
chief of the U.S. Forest Service, is quoted in McDonald's book: "I
stand for the [Teddy] Roosevelt policies because they set the common good
of all of us above the private gain of some of us." In other words,
a state park that thousands of people a year can enjoy is of greater value
to the nation than a developed enclave accessible by only a privileged
Who's right and who's wrong in contests to decide how land is used sometimes
depends on whom you talk to and how articulate they are in making a case
for their side. At this juncture in the development prospects for Jekyll
Island, it would appear that a few developers and possibly some politicians
could get rich by limiting access to a state park that is currently open
to the public. Perhaps the black-hat players described in the book could
justify their actions if they told their side of the story. Or perhaps
Dr. McDonald's assessment is right on target and no justification is possible.
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