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Jekyll Island State Park Offers a Healthy Answer to Georgia’s Obesity Epidemic


The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island hopes to keep Jekyll Island as a state park to offer Georgia families free recreational opportunities and help fight the obesity epidemic that is impacting every family

Jekyll Island, GA -- The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island has recently noted that obesity, stemming from inactivity, affects 40% of Georgia’s population and costs us $2.1 billion per year. Citing studies that show 58% of Georgia adults and 64% of high school students are physically inactive; 49% of middle schoolers spend excessive time watching TV, the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island fears that Georgia residents will suffer from a significant increase in heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, and a rapid rise in health care costs.

The health of the family unit has been compromised by competition for the attention of individual family members: demanding work and school schedules, time monopolized by technology, a growing communication and generation gap, and a loss of family cohesiveness.

The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island sees a remedy for these ills: active outdoor family recreation, provided by a state park system established for all Georgians.

Unlike most states, Georgia has no consistent funding stream for outdoor recreation but does receive support for public parks through the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has brought $150 million into the state over the last 40 years—dollars that take on added weight at a time when budget cuts threaten to close some of our state parks.

Eligibility for this funding requires that Georgia implement a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan every five years, spearheaded by recreation professionals and the public in partnership. Governor Perdue proclaims that SCORP “truly represents the desires and interests of all Georgians” and “outlines how Georgia can provide outdoor recreation opportunities that promote fitness, reconnect youth and families with nature, build the next generation of environmental stewards and enhance our state and local economy.”

Among the strategic actions called for by SCORP 2008-2013 are the creation of programs and activities in parks to promote healthy lifestyle choices, and the encouragement of the public to make use of existing outdoor recreation facilities.

Surprisingly, despite the benefits and popularity of outdoor recreation, and Governor Perdue’s vocal support for SCORP, the well-being of the Georgia’s state park system is at risk.

Take, for example the case of one of Georgia’s most prized public recreational facilities—Jekyll Island State Park.

With open beaches, forest trails, bike paths, fishing, boating, golf, and accommodations that suit the average pocketbook, Jekyll remains a choice vacation destination for Georgians of all income levels.

Unfortunately, older hotels and retail establishments have deteriorated, and revitalization of these amenities has become necessary. However, without fully assessing the recreational needs or interests of the Georgia public, the Jekyll Island Authority Board has moved forward with a plan that goes far beyond necessary improvements.

Phase I of Jekyll’s ’revitalization’ prescribes a Town Center consisting of hundreds of upscale condominiums, a 400-room luxury hotel, new roads through pristine maritime forest, and reduced direct beach access for day visitors. SCORP does not support large scale condominium developments, invasion of maritime forests, or luxury hotels in Jekyll Island State Park, or in any other park, as incentives to park visitation or to outdoor recreation.

What does the public have to say about the JIA’s plans? According to The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island (, 95% of 10,000 Jekyll visitors surveyed advocate necessary improvements and upgrades for the barrier island park, but reject the Town Center project now under consideration by the JIA. Similarly, public suggestions submitted to SCORP’s website stress “conservation” and “less development in parks.”

Improved public health, family cohesiveness, and enhanced appreciation for nature are the dividends paid by a park system responsibly protected and maintained: this is the right prescription for a healthy Georgia. Our prized public lands, our havens for family recreation, must remain accessible to all of Georgia’s citizens, whose interests are not served by inappropriate and invasive private development projects in our public parks.


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