Writer: Derby Waters
Published May 14, 2017
At a breakfast meeting Wednesday morning the plans for development at Jaycee Landing took another step toward becoming a reality.
Committee Chair Ed Jeffords and committee members met with elected Jesup and county officials and representatives from several boards to explain a report on possible development at the landing.
“The Jaycee Landing Strategic Vision and Plan” was formally presented to officials at the meeting. Produced by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, the report reveals possible expanded uses of Jaycee Landing and the bluff above it—all owned by Wayne County.
County Commissioners Mike Roberts, Ralph Hickox and Jerry Wright attended the session, as did Jesup Mayor David Earl Keith, Jesup Councilman Nick Harris and Jesup City Manager Mike Deal.
“It all comes down to you commissioners,” Jeffords told the officials near the end of the meeting. “This is not my plan; this is your project.”
“I think we are all on board. We will have to have somebody come in and tell us which way to go with it,” Roberts told Jeffords.
Former congressman Lindsay Thomas and Deal explained the project plans and how the idea has evolved to this point.
Thomas called the Altamaha River an “incredible resource” and explained the need for an overnight stop-off facility at the halfway point along the river—Jaycee Landing.
“We have a phenomenal opportunity for an educational facility and ecotourism here. You don’t build it—you accept the resource that we have,” he said.
He said the concept should start out small and grow and that the study puts the concept light-years ahead to go to foundations to seek funding for the development.
“This is a huge project,” Deal told the gathering.
He praised Jeffords for his leadership in getting the project to this point. Deal said there are some who don’t want to see any development along the river, but he noted the various possibilities to attract visitors to Wayne County.
He said that more money is spent in Georgia on bird-watching than that spent on hunting and fishing combined. He said that bird-watching platforms would be a simple part of the plan for development.
Deal said he wants to see a nature trail from the landing to the sandbar that extends beneath the bridge for U.S. Highways 341 and 84.
“We could have our own Wayne County Beach,” he added.
The report is 40 pages long and explains possible developments for the landing and bluff areas at Jaycee Landing.
The report explains that the concepts for enhancements at the site were developed following interviews with people interested in the project, surveys to gather public input and eight focus groups from a cross-section of the community to involve ideas from various local clubs, agencies and authorities.
The input showed interest in more parking, camping sites, overnight accommodations that might include cabins and tree houses, showers, boat fueling, an improved bait shop, a cooking area, a playground, an educational center, canoe and kayak launches, bird-watching overlooks, hiking and nature trails, fish-cleaning facilities, and dozens of other ideas.
The report lays out ideas for development at river level at the landing itself and for development on the bluff above.
Central to the future development (should the project take off) is an Altamaha Nature and History Center that would be built on the bluff.
“The center could become a new and engaging regional hub for environmental education, historic information and economic development,” the report explains.
“Interactive, engaging and informative, the Altamaha Nature and History Center could give visitors an overview of the region, its ecological diversity and its rich history.
“Design recommendations include the following: a trail that connects the bluff to the landing, an interpretive trail that leads visitors in a loop around the center and provides a snapshot of the Altamaha River Watershed, an overlook platform that offers an unobstructed view to the river, and the Play and Explore outdoor area to enhance ecosystem education,” the report says.
Those attending the meeting expressed the need to begin small and enlarge the project as the community and visitors show interest. But they were undetermined as to the next step to take at this point.
It was decided to ask Leigh Askew Elkins, who has headed up the study for the Carl Vinson Institute, to meet with elected officials. Roberts said he would like Elkins to advise the commissioners as to the best step to take next.
Those present at the meeting included Randy Franks from the Wayne County Industrial Development Authority, Maika Weathers from the Jesup Downtown Development Authority, Christy Carter from the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, Wayne County Chief Deputy Doug Lewis, and Executive Director Heather Altman and members Janet Royal, Mike Lane and Will Murphy from the Wayne County Board of Tourism.