Help Save Tourism in the County


Most of you know how much I love this community. After college, I came back here for one reason only: because I wanted to be here. I love more about that community than a lot of people. What do I mean by that? Well, we all love the nature, the sights, the history and the oft-mentioned “character” of the area. But I also love the development and the tourism.

I love it when a nice new building goes up in this area or when an older building gets a refresh and an upgrade, maybe even a tear down and rebuild. Who can honestly say that the Jekyll Island Convention Center hasn’t beautified and improved the standing of our community? I love the new housing developments that come to the area, because more often than not, the developers, competing with other developers, are looking to raise the bar. When we have competition for new development, we are all winners.

I love the tourism. As a kid, I often wondered why the rest of the world wasn’t beating a path to our door. I thought, “Sure, New York is great and all, but look at this place!” I love going on vacation to Walt Disney World, but I never make plans to stay and I’m always glad when I come back home. Finally the world has started to come around to my thinking. More and more people are “discovering” the area. More and more people are visiting, booking trips, and eventually moving here.

But to keep tourism alive, the tourist attractions have to be fresh, to attract new people. There’s a reason Disney opens new attractions with a certain degree of frequency. It’s great as it is, but it can always be better.

Family and friends alike make the pilgrimage here to visit, kick back, and enjoy our hospitality. And when they come visit, you know the number one question they ask? “Can we go see the ship?” Asking, of course, about the Golden Ray. People line the pier looking at the Golden Ray. People slow down on the Sidney Lanier Bridge to stare at the Golden Ray. Let’s face it: in the last year and half the Golden Ray has become a major tourist attraction.

Which is why I was worried by the press conference the Unified Command held this week. You see, the workers are entering the home stretch. The engine room section is gone. It was the toughest section to remove and the rest should be smooth sailing. It’s only a matter of time—and a few dozen broken chains—before the Golden Ray is no more.

But doesn’t the Golden Ray represent a significant slice of our history? Doesn’t it draw scores of people to the area? Isn’t this community focused on preservation, and conservation? Where, then, are the efforts to save our newest tourist attraction? Are we just going to sit idly by and let them take the Golden Ray away from us? Obviously, we need to fight for it, and we have people in this community who have the means and the mission to do exactly that.

Today I make the request: Land Trust, please purchase and preserve the Golden Ray. It’s too valuable to our area to lose. We must conserve it. I know some will say the Land Trust has neither the time nor the resources to mount this undertaking, but I say nay. I say if they have the ability to fight with German Village for years on end, they can refocus on this project.

And look, I’m not thinking small. I’m thinking the Golden Ray can become The Golden Isles’ Home for the Holidays. Not bad, huh? Put lights on it at Christmas. Host Haunted Ship tours at Halloween. Launch the Fourth of July fireworks from it. On Groundhog Day, we can pull a different KIA from it. If it cranks we get an early spring. The possibilities are endless.

And I’m not done. We can use projection mapping technology to shine animations, photos, and, yes, revenue-generating ads onto the ship.

Land Trust, you get that 1% from all those restaurants on the Island (the county wants a piece of that action, by the way). You have a mission of preserving things that are good about the area. I don’t see how you can’t turn your attention towards this. Hurry, before it’s too late and the Ray is gone!

I know. Some doubters are going to say it’s not practical. It’s not possible. It’s in the way. I say, you haven’t dreamed big enough yet, and you’re standing in the way of progress!


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