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Things are looking up on Jekyll Island

As a one of its chief detractors in recent years, I feel it is incumbent upon me to report things are looking up on Georgia’s Jekyll Island. We were at Jekyll earlier this month for the Georgia Press Association’s annual convention. We stayed at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and the accommodations, food and service were top notch. Jekyll is the traditional home of the GPA convention but the island’s decline sent it ‘“ and dozens of other conventions ‘“ elsewhere. Jekyll’s motels went downhill, its convention center became a joke and trade associations looked for greener pastures and whiter beaches. The final nail in the coffin for GPA was a black tie event some years back at the Jekyll convention center, known to many as the Aquarama, at which the sprinklers came on and drenched all the ladies as, dressed to the nines, they walked into the building. Inattention to detail did Jekyll in. Jones Hooks, the new executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority, knows this. He spoke to our group and outlined the authority’s plans to remold the island’s reputation as a tourist and convention destination. Several of the drab motels along the beach have been torn down and new facilities will replace them. A new Hampton Inn, run by the same company that runs the Jekyll Island Club, will open on the beach in October. An upscale beachfront park development will replace a worn asphalt parking lot that has graced the dunes just north of the convention center for my entire life. Hooks did not tell this story on himself. I heard it from someone else who knows him well. After watching and listening to the man, I have no doubt it is true. It seems that Hooks, shortly after being hired, showed up at the rental shack on Jekyll to rent a bicycle for a tour. He was taken aback by the rudeness displayed by the man who ran the bike shack. At a later meeting with his management team, he asked about the gruff man. Everybody agreed the purveyor of bicycles was rude and a poor choice to greet the island’s visitors but he had been there forever and nobody had the guts to fire him. Hooks did. The man is history and, presumably, the bike shack is now run by someone with a better outlook on life. That is the kind of attention to detail it will take to bring Jekyll Island back. That and a whole lot of money. Those of you who fear the island will become overdeveloped can rest easy. State law demands that 65% of the island remain untouched. Time will tell the tale but I have good feelings about the future of this gem just off Georgia’s coast. (Note: The highlight of the trip to Jekyll was the election of Laura Melton Geiger as GPA president. Laura is a fourth generation journalist and the fourth in our family to serve in this position. She will do a great job and the Geiger girls and I are very proud of her.)

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