by Guerry Norwood

the-villageThe Village area of St. Simons, located at the southern end of the island at Mallery Street and Ocean Boulevard, is the best place to start your visit of the island. From here, one can visit the historic lighthouse, fish or crab off the pier, hold a picnic, start a bike tour of the island, walk the beach, browse one of the village shops, or eat in one of St. Simons’s finer restaurants. This part of the island is developed and busy; nonetheless, the natural setting is quite beautiful, with large Live Oaks shading the view of the shimmering St. Simons Sound and Jekyll Island beyond. Shrimp boats are seen trafficking between offshore shrimping grounds and their harbor in Brunswick. In many areas, homes perched practically on top of rip-rap rocks appear ready to fling themselves into the ocean. In other areas, dunes have been allowed to endure and support the fascinating plant and animal communities that populate the dynamic area between beach and forest.

The village got its start in the 1870s resort period, when vacationers traveled from the mainland on steamships. Most of the early historic buildings of St. Simons were destroyed by fire. The St. Simons Hotel was built in 1888 near Massengale Park, which was linked to the pier by mule-drawn trolley. The grand structure, large enough to host 300 guests, was destroyed by fire in December of 1898. The New St. Simons Hotel was built at the same location in 1910, but in 1916, it too burned. Nonetheless, St. Simons continued to be popular with vacationers, and four other hotels were established near the pier, including the Bellevue, which was renamed St. Simons Hotel.

bandstand-gazaboThe third St. Simons Hotel, located at the end of the pier, was replaced by the first Casino Building, which burned in 1934. The area started to develop more rapidly with the building of the causeway in 1924, and more visitors opted to become year-round residents. With a growing population, a village of small shops and businesses was able to flourish year-round by the 1950s, and by 1960, the resident population was 3,199. Today, the village is the focal point of commercial and tourist activities on the island. The St. Simons Visitor Center is located in the second Casino Building at the northern end of Neptune Park and offers a complete assortment of visitor facilities and information, including a library, restrooms, a theater playhouse, and an outdoor bandstand.

sea turtleThe Georgia Sea Turtle Center officially opened June 2007 in Jekyll Island, Ga.’s National Historic Landmark District on the site of the original 1903 Power Plant building, much of which has been preserved and incorporated into the new facilities.  The ambitious, $3 million center – offering an outstanding museum-style learning experience and a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center and veterinary clinic, is the first of its kind in Georgia and is the world’s leading sea turtle rehabilitation, research and education facility.

Why is a Sea Turtle Center Needed in Georgia?

Stranded sea turtles are often found along Atlantic coast beaches. A small, but increasing number of these turtles are still alive. Before, there were no facilities in Georgia to treat the turtles, and they had to be transported long distances to centers in Florida and South Carolina. Unfortunately, these facilities were often filled to capacity, and the turtles were not treated adequately and/or prematurely released.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island is open to the public for tours:

April 09-Nov 09: Monday from 10am-2pm; Tuesday through Sunday from 9am-5pm
Dec 09-Feb 10: Tuesday through Sunday from 9am-5pm

For more information about the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and its programs, please visit georgiaseaturtlecenter.org.

istock_000002251623xsmall1The Glynn County Board of Commissioners and the Glynn County Recreation & Parks Department invite you to the Demere Skate Park Grand Openings & Ribbon Cutting Cemereony.

Saturday, March 14, 2009
10:00 am – 2:00 pm

T-Shirts to the first 100 registered skaters! Door prizes to attendees including stickers, beanies, and six “American Ramp Company” decks. Registration begins at 9am. With special guest demonstration and autographs by Jud Heald, American Ramp Company sponsored pro skater.

The Island’s new (and only) skate park is located at Demere Park, near the beach and Pier Village on St. Simons Island. The park is open daily from 8am to 8pm, and admission is free. The park design is geared toward younger skaters, with a variety of elements that are challenging for intermediate skaters, but easy enough to help novice skaters develop their skateboarding skills. The park includes two 3-foot quarter pipes, two 5-foot quarter pipes, two 2-foot bank ramps with flat decks and round grind rail, one square grind rail, one manual pad, one skate bench, and two 3-foot half pipes.

Demere Skate Park is the first of two skate parks planned for Brunswick and The Golden Isles. A second, larger and more difficult park is in the planning stages. It is anticipated that it will be built at the North Glynn Recreation Park in Brunswick.

by Guerry Norwood

48231a95-002e6-029af-400cb8e1In exploring St. Simons Island, it’s possible, when looking closely at certain of the majestic oak trees that cover the island, to find one actually looking back at you. There, peering out from the trunk, from between two huge branches, or from the stub of a long-vanished branch, you may see the unmistakable image of a weathered face. These are the Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island-lovingly carved faces emerging from the trees. ssi-tree-spirit

These sorrowful faces are the creations of sculptor Keith Jennings. He was commissioned to immortalize the numerous sailors who lost their lives at sea aboard the mighty sailing ships that were made from St. Simons oak. He also carved several Indian faces. The oaks, which display these faces, seem to reflect their sad expressions with their drooping limbs and hanging Spanish moss. Follow the trail of the tree spirits and let your imagination take you back to another time. If you would like to see a Tree Spirit, look among the trees in these locations:

Demere Road at Skylane Drive
Demere Road at the North end of the airport
Mallory Street next to Murphy’s Tavern
Redfern Village (in front of wine and cheese shop)
3305 Frederica Road

The former Casino Pool gets a new identity this summer.

Those of you who fondly remember spending hot summer days at the Casino pool, you will be pleased to know that plans for a new community pool are well underway. In fact, construction is well underway. Yesterday, the Brunswick News featured an article with an aerial photo illustrating Water World’s progress. I am impressed! Plans call for an oceanfront water park featuring a lap pool, splash (children’s) pool, and large zero-entry recreational pool. Besides looking cool, the zero-edge feature (sloped much like the beach) allows for easy handicap accessibility.  Additionally, the former mini-golf course, now closed, is being relocated to the area surrounding the pool. A large bathhouse is also under construction, which will feature restrooms and a concession booth. If construction continues as scheduled, the new community water park will open in time for summer. Water world is the highlight of the new St. Simons Island Pier/Village master plan, which includes plans for a new playground, a wider beach walk, fresh landscaping, and an overall revitalized park area. For information from the county on the new Village Master Plan, please visit glynncounty.org.

by Joe Wills

6:15 am – Friday, January 23. Sea Island Spa Fitness.

Double shot cappuccino got my heart started then out the door. Greeted by a group of early riser regulars for Trish’s Spinning Class. We began literally in dawn’s early light a none-too-gentle eye opening warm up spin with a nice little Electronica rave. Then hammered our hearts away to U2 – worked out the kinks with The Kinks and came Alive with Safri Duo intervals, toss in some breathless sprints to Talking Heads and more U2 for good measure. Excellent 40 minute ride plus stretches – just over 600 calories burned in the process. Heart rate was 40% aerobic, 60% anaerobic. Perfect pairing of music and coaching produced prodigious pools of sweat on the mats beneath our bikes. Excellent coffee afterward (the best in all of Sea Island) and a colorful sunrise was a great reward for our effort and in preparation for Scott’s Strength & Cardio Class. A small but dedicated group of masochists enjoyed another grueling session of light and heavy dumbbells with body bar presses, skull crushers, crunches and two sets of traveling lunges finished with a session of stretching. 45 minutes of gain via pain. I of course forgot to clip out of my cycling shoes into cross-trainers and so paid the price for my stupidity with sore ankles.Excellent coaching on Scott’s part though. Back at the office before 9:30, ready to face the day. Just over 1,000 calories all in all. Not a bad start for a Friday. 6:15 AM Spinning classes are offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The Spa at Sea Island is an amazing 65,000 square foot facility which is divided between Spa Treatments and Fitness spaces. The fitness facet is directed by a very friendly and talented team of trainers and staff making it truly one of the finest facilities of its kind. Sea Island Spa is open to Resort Guest and Club Members and their guests. Sea Island Club Membership may be had via purchase of qualified property in one of Sea Island’s numerous communities on St Simons Island and Sea Island.

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Joe Wills is a leading real estate professional with Hodnett Cooper specializing in the purchase and sale of homes with club memberships on St. Simons Island and Sea Island. His insight into clubs and their amenities are based on more than 30 years in private club and resort operations management, including Augusta National Golf Club and the Sea Island Company.

by Len Gullickson

 

It was one of those beautiful South Georgia days between Christmas and New Year. The temperature was forecast to reach 80° with light winds; perfect for a day cruise.

The First Mate suggested (determined) that we should head up the IntraCoastal Waterway with a side trip on the Frederica River to Fort Frederica, the site of one of the first British settlements in this area. The cruise northbound caused us to meet several southbound power and sail boats heading south from “up north” and Canada. It is an annual migration that is interesting to watch.

Coming around the final bend before Fort Frederica, it was easy to see why the British built it where they did. Incoming enemy ships would be a clear on “bow shot” from the fort with limited ability to return fire. The dolphins were enjoying the day as much as we were. They frolicked everywhere, celebrating this glorious weather.

On the trip back to the marina, we passed one of the oldest metal power yachts we have seen in years, slowly heading down the waterway. Everyone fulfills their dreams of being afloat in their own way.

by Guerry Norwood

blog-0141The Sapelo Island Visitor Center is located at the mainland ferry dock in Meridian and serves as a key distribution point for information about coastal ecosystems, educational opportunities, and tourism activities. Interpretive exhibits at the center highlight Sapelo Island’s rich cultural history, the Hog Hammock Community, University of Georgia Marine Institute, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System as well as estuarine, barrier island, and shoreline habitats.

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Guests are encouraged to explore the nature trails that weave through the maritime forest and along the marsh and salt pans surrounding the facility. Stop by sometime for a quick hike!

The center has a 50-seat audio-visual room for lectures, special programs, and video and slide presentations. This room is made available for special interest group meetings (Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Friends of Sapelo, etc.). Please call for information on how your organization can reserve the Visitor Center A-V room for your next meeting. 

Public tour reservations can be made by calling (912) 437-3224. Group tours for 10-40 people can be arranged by calling the Education Office (912) 485-2300. Tickets for public and group tours of Sapelo Island can be purchased at the Visitor Center. T-shirts, books, and videos are also available for purchase. For a Visual Tour of Sapelo Island Visitor Center go the following link: http://www.visualtour.com/shownp.asp?T=169667.

santa

Santa Claus will make a grand entrance, by sea, at the Village Pier this weekend.

Bring the children Saturday, December 12th at 12:30 pm. to see Mr. Claus arrive by boat – escorted by Sea Tow! Following his arrival, Mr. Claus will remain at the pier in the playground area for photos and last minute Christmas requests.

In the event you are unable to attend Saturday’s festivities, don’t worry, Santa will return Christmas Eve. At 6:00 pm, on Wednesday, December 24th, Mr. Claus will visit the St. Simons Island Casino.

Hosted by the Glynn County Fire Department, Santa will depart with sirens blaring on a giant fire truck! A procession of fire trucks, including Santa’s, will travel down Demere and Frederica Road passing out candy and pausing for photographs. This is a great Island tradition that is fun for the entire family.

There are many ways to enjoy a Coastal Christmas on St. Simons Island.

by Guerry Norwood

South Newport, Georgia: This still active chapel is called the “Smallest Church in America”. Memory Park Christ Chapel — Just south of I-95 exit 67, on hwy. 17.  Agnes Harper, a rural grocer with limited funds, built a 10 X 15 foot building in the Coastal Georgia woods near South Newport.  She wrote the deed in the name of Jesus Christ and invited everyone (locals and tourists) to worship at her new church.  For the past 50+ years, the church has been open 24 hours a day for all religious denominations.

smallestchurch

How big is “The Smallest Church In America”?  It can hold 13 people, the pulpit is no bigger than a couch and the entire structure (roof and all) might fit into the average bedroom. Memory Park Christ Chapel has a tiny pulpit, pews and a tiny stained glass window with just enough room for Jesus. Seating only 12 people, the chapel was built as a place for rest and worship for travelers along scenic coastal route U.S. 17.

How is the inside of the church furnished?  The stained glass windows are from England, the pews have fold-away knee rests and there is a glass star in the roof that allows the bright South Georgia sunlight to illuminate the interior. For a photo slideshow of the Smallest Church in America link to: http://www.visualtour.com/shownp.asp?T=187169.