Nearly nine months ago the board of county commissioners adopted ordinance 2018-02, a specific vision for the private properties in St. George Island's commercial district: from 3rd Street East to 3rd Street West, from beach to bay.

Now the St. George Island Civic Club has produced a long-term vision—SGI 2025—for the publicly owned land in that same area. The civic club followed the language of the ordinance, proposing to create a more welcoming entrance to the island, preserve the unique character of St. George, and foster a more attractive and prosperous business community for residents and visitors.

During Thanksgiving 2018 week, Civic Club President James Donald announced the ballot results for SGI 2025; the club's voting members approved all 13 proposed capital outlay projects. The vote followed eight months of public meetings, research of funding agencies, development of concept plans and an interactive website, led by a 20-member infrastructure committee.

The most popular projects, which received more than 85 percent support, are badly needed renovations. Stormwater drainage, a top issue, is such a problem that some businesses are not accessible after heavy rains. Resurfacing roadways, adding sidewalks, opening alleyways, and improving parking are all critical to this central district of small, locally-owned businesses.

Public facilities are equally critical in popular Lighthouse Park, visited by more than 50,000 people each year. Families typically face long lines to use the limited, outdated facilities. These sole public restrooms also serve the public beach and shopping district. They must be expanded.

Other existing infrastructure proposals include re-engineering a dangerous boat ramp, replacing a portable toilet on the fishing pier, and beautifying State Road 300/Franklin Blvd., particularly after the impact of Hurricane Michael.

The civic club hopes these projects will become amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan five-year capital improvements schedule. Because the island is not incorporated nor a separate legal entity that can seek grants, the island must rely on county government action for all funding. This encompasses state, federal, and private foundation grants and loans, including BP Oil Spill funds allocated for regions—like the island—impacted by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The St. George Island Civic Club, over 400 members strong, has a 45-year history of volunteerism for improvements to the island. Among the volunteer projects the club has accomplished are the restrooms at Lighthouse Park, the beach walkovers at avenue ends, and the iconic welcoming sign to the island. With the St. George Island volunteer fire department as its top priority, the civic club also financially supports multiple other charitable organizations that serve the county. The club's chief fundraising activity is winter bingo at the firehouse.

The St. George Island Civic Club members recognize the great needs of all of Franklin County and the many years of planning, funds-seeking, and budgeting necessary to fulfill them. Islanders want to contribute and collaborate. The SGI 2025 Vision is the first time the county will have elements of a long-term plan for this unincorporated area, developed through a citizen-driven, consensus-building process.

According to county records, the county has not provided significant capital investments to the island for more than 20 years. The civic club plan offers focus and opportunity.

For more about SGI 2025 Vision and its individual components, including potential funding sources and proposed order of implementation, please visit www.sgi2025.com.