Help save iconic Saint Simons Island Surf Sailing Club from commercial development!

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Grassroots rally takes form as local residents, nationwide sailing enthusiasts and iconic Saint Simons Surf Sailing Club unite to save beachfront watersports facility from urban development.

To help support this cause all we need is your vote! If your wish to help further, contact us at surfsailors@stsimonssurfsailors.com

History

The statement above is a very common story nowadays, the quintessential David versus Goliath. The Saint Simons Surf Sailing Club (the David in this case) was formed by sailing and watersports enthusiast’s years back in 1974.  After recognizing the need to accommodate the Surf Sailors growing enthusiasm the U.S. Coast Guard*allocated the club a small patch of land on East Beach to support recreational watersports, specifically sailing and windsurfing. The club community and membership quickly grew as the iconic catamaran fleet expanded to include windsurfing, kayaks, standup paddleboards and other beach orientated watersports. The image of bright colored sails contrasting with the beach, ocean and bright sun is etched in all our minds when we imagine “going to the beach”.  This iconic imagery has become a rarity as urban developments continue to sprawl and span the nations coasts paving over natural landscapes that once provided natural habitats and robust protective dunes.

This is not a yacht club of elite 1-pecenters or even “surf bums”, but a combination that spans professional businessman to your everyday Joe all united by a common passion for nature, environment and watersports. This passion is expressed and shared at every given opportunity. The club regularly teaches watermanship skills, sailing, windsurfing, standup paddle boarding and ocean safety to youth and adult members, guests and just about any body that is interested for that matter. The Surf Sailors hold catamaran regattas up to 10 times per year and also have hosted public events such as the Golden Isles Standup Paddleboard Classic, Windsurfing and Standup Paddleboarding equipment demos, and numerous other beach related events and conservation endeavors.

The affordable club membership is open to the public and has become a family-oriented gathering place for its local and geographically dispersed members and guests. The club supports both, onsite local lifeguard and police facilities, plus the club employs their own maintenance and support personnel year round. All of support and facility maintenance comes at no cost to taxpayers nor requires any outside funding. Having watermen on the beach year round (county lifeguards are only on the beach during the main season) has led to many rescues and lives and property saved. Club members even donated a rescue standup paddleboard to the county lifeguards to support rescue operations in heavy surf conditions where rescue kayaks could not be deployed. 

Here Comes Goliath: (This is where we need your support)

The timeline of events is very difficult to assemble (due to the shrouds of secrecy) but it goes something like this. A few years back Goliath started to eye the county owned property in which the Surf Sailors Club occupy. This escalated to the assembly of an informal group (which will later be identified) to investigate the possibility of developing the property, which at the onset excluded the inclusion of the Surf Sailors facilities. Shortly afterwards a public-private consortium of local organizations formed an “official committee” known as Coast Guard Beach Park Master Plan Committee (CGBPMPC) which purposely denied the Surf Sailors committee involvement. The committee was and is lead by Scott McQuade of the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sheri Jones of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. They were joined by Coast Cottages Neighborhood Association, East Beach Homeowners Association, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau, the St. Simons Land Trust as well as representatives of Glynn County government - District 2 Commissioner Peter Murphy, District 4 Commissioner and current County Commission Chairman Bill Brunson, and County Manager Alan Ours.

On April 18, 2017 this committee approached the Glynn County Board of Commissioners (GCBOC), the GCBOC minutes of the meeting is quoted below:

Sherri Jones, of the Historical Society, and Scott McQuade with the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) presented the Coast Guard Park Master Plan.

The Coast Guard Beach Park Master Plan Committee, made up of county staff, the historical society, the CVB, the St. Simons Land Trust, East Beach Homeowners Association, Coast Guard Cottages Homeowners Association, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have met to discuss the plan. The committee members agreed that a comprehensive master plan would be the best method to properly engage the public and actively plan the park improvements.

Mr. McQuade said the previous master plan that was created for this park was done so without including the stakeholders. This time the stakeholders would be included from the beginning.

The committee asked the Board of Commissioners to support the endeavor by contributing $5,000 toward hiring a firm to complete the master plan.

The GCBOC granted the requested $5000.00.

Once the community “got word” of this development there was a tremendous public outcry of resistance prompting the following statement from Scott McQuade on October 26, 2017 ~ excerpt from the Brunswick News.

Scott McQuade of the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau clarified during a town hall meeting Tuesday that the beach access at the old Coast Guard Station on St. Simons Island will remain a parking lot and will not, as some people had thought, be turned into a park.

McQuade’s remarks were made during the second of five community input meetings to develop a master plan for what will be called Coast Guard Beach Park. The meeting took place at the convention center at College of Coastal Georgia campus.

“The use of the word ‘park,’ may have been innocently misconstrued,” McQuade told the small gathering of people in attendance. “The intention of calling it a park was an innocent word choice. The feedback from the online survey was this site should be a parking lot. We’re just trying to find out what the community wants. This public process is leading us towards that.”

Those who attended were asked to fill out a survey questionnaire about what they would like to see included in the parking lot and to rank their concerns. One question asked if respondents would use a seasonal trolley shuttle to the beach or other popular areas if one existed.

Bill Brunson, chairman of the Glynn County Commission attended the meeting and suggested a recently proposed ferry system as a viable solution to alleviate some of the traffic congestion on the island.

Glynn County Commissioners heard a proposal at a Tuesday work session from Stephen Williams, president of Anchor Shipping Group, to start a ferry service between St. Simons and Jekyll islands.

The goal is to have a final master plan completed and presented to the Glynn County Commission by January.

McQuade said also there was no plan to pave the parking lot and charge a fee to park there. ~ End Excerpt from Brunswick News

As stated above McQuade’s reassurance to public concerns was enough to temporarily appease, both the Surf Sailing community, and the supporting local population. This deliberate misinformation was provided during the CGBPMPC’s “Public Survey” phase, which can be perceived as an intentional deterrent from expressing public concerns regarding the development of the property as a park.  

According to the CGBPMPC’s website, both concepts they are proposing include an event site, event lawn, benches, observation deck, pavilion, parking lot gates, equipment rental etc. Having “Beach Park” in the name of the masterplan and closely examining the conceptual drawings, this all sounds pretty clearly to be a park right?  Although they include a “potential recreational area” missing from the park plan are the facilities for the Surf Sailors sailboats and watersports equipment.

To further help sell the plan to the public the “Red Herring” is the mention of the Coast Guard Museum, which already exists, and is now awash among the more specific purpose of the “masterplan” which is essentially a park and yet another wedding event site.

As a part of our community we are asking for your support (speak out). We ask you to participate with us as we try to preserve this wonderful recreational area that has been a part of the culture and beauty of Saint Simons Island for over 30 years. Can you agree with us that there are already enough underutilized parks and event sites on the island, and that the addition of another “park” would consume already stressed tax revenue to support and maintain the park. Your support in preserving this space allows your current and future tax dollars to be utilized on more urgently needed infrastructure, sewer, water, roads etc.

* The Coast Guard Commander was quoted in the county records as ‘very favorable to donating the land for sailboat storage’.

Please read below the official objective statement from the Saint Simons Surf Sailors. We need your help!

 S.O.S.

Reasons to Save the St. Simons Surf Sailors

Objective: To inform the residents and public officials of the value that the St Simons Surf Sailors have to the community at the specific location where we are now.

I.     The Coast Guard Beach is the location for ocean side water sports on St Simons

1.    The St Simons Surf Sailors facility has been the primary hub for wind and water sports at East Beach since its inception

2.    We maintain the facility, for members and guests, at no expense to the county

3.    Included in the access to ocean sports are the sea scouts, high school sailing teams (currently coached by our vice commodore), and sailing instruction

4.    Several members of the high school sailing teams are members of the St. Simons Surf Sailors

5.    Generations of families are and have been members since 1972

6.    We are an established organization with over 45 years facilitating watersports

 II.              We are an iconic image very few other communities have

1.    We have been at the current location for over 30 years

2.    We interact with locals and tourist year round exchanging photos and sailing experiences and are consistently on the beach with sails raised engaged with locals and tourists

3.    To lose this image of what makes the St Simons beach so unique and special would be a detriment to all, the community and tourists alike

III.            The proposed plan is unsustainable and impractical      

1.    The proposed plans do not provide adequate space for the full time members, short and long term guests and a possible rental fleet.

2.    In order for us to manage the facility and support future growth we need to maintain the amount of secured space we have

3.    The proposed plan for offsite storage and having to trailer the boats to the beach would not be practical. This would ultimately eliminate sailing as we know it on the St Simons beach

4.    If these plans are implemented and without the boats on the beach, all residents and tourists would lose a special component of st simons that has become an iconic image of our collective memory

We ask that you join this petition, Like and Join our dedicated Facebook Group page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/savessss/ In addition, know that your efforts matter. Feel free to contact and convey your opposition to the opposing parties social media, emails, and phones. If possible join us at the GCBOC public meeting (date and time to be confirmed, either March 15, or March 20) and help us show we care about our beach and our watersports.



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