Tiny German island votes on expansion

AP News
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Posted: Jun 26, 2011 7:49 AM
Tiny German island votes on expansion

The roughly 1,200 residents of Germany's northernmost island, Helgoland, are voting on whether to expand to accommodate more tourists, or preserve their status as a unique North Sea refuge.

Helgolanders decide Sunday whether to accept an euro18-million project to artificially restore a sandbar washed away in 1720 linking the island to a smaller neighboring island, Duene, that hosts an airport and a campground.

"It is a decision of the heart," Helgoland mayor Juerg Singer told the FAS weekly. "I don't know how hearts are going to beat."

The idea is to gain about 20 percent more land mass for the islands, located some 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of the German coast, and create beaches and hotel space to generate more tourism and reverse a population decline.

If approved, the proposed strip of land could host up to 1,000 more hotel beds, a harbor and a museum documenting the island's storied history as a British possession in the 1800s, a site of a Nazi submarine bunker and massive bombing.

Yet many of the 350,000 visitors who flock to Helgoland each year argue it is precisely the lack of organized tourism that make the island an attractive destination. They come for the peace and solitude offered by its remoteness.