By Len Ziehm

State parks are a big thing in Georgia, with one in particular standing out — an old place with a sparkling new look.

Needless to say Jekyll Island isn’t your ordinary state park. There are 600 residents on the island, located on the outskirts of Brunswick off the Intracoastal Waterway near the bigger cities of Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, FL.

Jekyll offers a lot of things – a 22-mile bike and hiking trail, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the Summer Waves Water Park, The Wharf (a most memorable fun waterfront restaurant), the most enchanting Driftwood Beach, tennis, croquet and fishing centers, horse stables, a campground, a wide variety of lodging and gift shops and 63 holes of golf.

What Jekyll is really all about, though, is history. There really isn’t another place like it.

Those 63 holes of golf are enticing, but they aren’t part of this report. This is to report on a $25 million renovation that touched most areas of the property.

“ There was a Master Plan put into effect 10-12 years ago,’’ said Kevin Baker, director of sales and marketing for the Jekyll Island Club Resort. “That included a Convention Center and Beach Village, but it feels different here now because the majority of the big construction is done. A lot of things were completed last year and the Master Plan is pretty much complete now. Just little bits and pieces are still being upgraded.’’

A look back at what Jekyll Island was shows how far it has come. Fifty of the weathiest families in America combined efforts to create what was considered “the richest, most exclusive and most inaccessible club in the world.’’

It opened in 1888 and became a playground for the rich and famous. Its early members were J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt and Marshall Field. The club became known as a “Southern Haven for America’s Millionaires.’’

With no roads available, those fortunate few arrived by boat and moved around the island in carriages. Electricity was available on the island before it came to most of the rest of the country. Life was good.

The club had a big clubhouse facing a swimming pool that was 10 feet deep throughout. The Grand Dining Room and Alexander’s lobby bar (named after clubhouse designer Charles A. Alexander) were the most popular hotspots. More