Writer: Roger Nielsen
Wayne County community leaders are implementing an Institute of Government strategic plan to develop the Altamaha River’s Jaycee Landing into a regional anchor for recreation, environmental education and ecotourism.
The plan outlines a number of ways the community can develop the riverside recreational site, located along historic U.S. Highway 301 north of Jesup. Proposals include constructing a natural history center to inform visitors about the rich environmental and historical qualities of the river corridor. The community vision also includes suggestions to expand a boat-launching facility on the riverbank, improve a campground on a bluff above the river and install nature trails and birding stations.
Former congressman Lindsay Thomas, a Wayne County resident, encouraged the community to take advantage of the popular, 50-acre Jaycee Landing site to showcase the diverse and intact ecology of the Altamaha River basin. The river and its wide floodplain incorporate some of the most undisturbed land in Georgia and provide critical habitat for more than 100 rare or endangered species.
“Jaycee Landing gives us a great opportunity to capitalize on a resource we have,” Thomas said. ”We saw this vast, very diverse river system as an educational opportunity with an ecotourism component.”
Institute faculty coordinated an extensive public input process to evaluate ideas for enhancing Jaycee Landing. The resulting development plan was presented to a community stakeholder committee and other leaders at a public meeting May 10.
Next, Wayne County and the City of Jesup plan to establish a cooperative organization to develop and operate the site effectively. The stakeholder committee, chaired by Rayonier senior staff engineer Edward S. Jeffords, asked Institute faculty member Leigh Elkins to host a meeting this summer to explore ways of structuring a joint development organization. Elkins also will work with committee members to prioritize an action plan and establish a timeline for completing specific development projects.
“The next step is how do we get started, what do we need to do,” Jeffords said. “Jaycee Landing is a gateway to the Altamaha, but the river is really an unknown treasure. We have a beautiful resource here, and we need to tell our story.”
The Institute developed the Jaycee Landing Strategic Vision and Plan through a contract with Wayne County, the City of Jesup and the Wayne County Board of Tourism, with additional support from Rayonier Advanced Materials and the UGA Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach.