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Jekyll vaults to top
Jekyll Island shot to first place from its third place position over the weekend in a contest that will give the state park a chance at a $100,000 recreational grant and the title of "America's Favorite Park."

The Coca-Cola contest gives state parks nationwide an opportunity to vie for bragging rights and recreational grants that will be awarded to the top three finishers. If Jekyll Island is in first place when the contest ends July 15 it would receive $100,000. Second place would earn the island $50,000, while a third place finish would bring $25,000.

An error was discovered in the way some votes were being counted, particularly "check-ins" using the social media website Foursquare that earn parks 100 extra votes. After the voting system was audited, Jekyll Island rose to the top spot Saturday.

Monday evening, Jekyll Island held first place, with 1,227,157 votes, ahead of second place Swift-Cantrell Park, near Kennesaw, Ga., with 1,093,066.

The voting campaign has become a community event with many resident organizations pushing for votes and restaurants offering discounts to patrons who show their Foursquare "check-in."

"We're all so proud of things that are going on here with the revitalization. We want to share that with the rest of the world. Although we think Georgia knows about Jekyll Island, we want to spread the word," said Joe Malbasa, president of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association.

Malbasa said his organization is working to encourage residents and guests to vote, and vote often, which is allowed.

The title of "America's Favorite Park" would give the state park more than just bragging rights and grant money, Malbasa said. It would give the state park a national audience.

Guests are arriving to the island from distant places each year, like New York and Canada, Malbasa said, and winning a national campaign would only increase exposure.

"I think the word is beginning to spread (about the island), Malbasa said. "Coca-Cola's name recognition and being on their top 10 list is certainly exposure."

Revitalization projects are being pursued to bring Jekyll Island into a new era, but other areas of the island need attention, too, Malbasa said.

The Jekyll Island Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Jekyll Island Authority which operates the state park, has said that it would match any grant money received in the competition to fund three projects: a new bird watching platform at Driftwood Beach, relocation of the old Skeet House into the historic district and diamondback terrapin work.

"These are all projects that we would like to see done here on Jekyll," Malbasa said. "Money is always a problem and as the Jekyll Island Authority pulls money in and through the foundation then ... these things can be done."

Vote

Voting in the favorite state park contest takes place at www.livepositively.com. Multiple votes can be cast per day. Voting ends July 15.



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