BY MARCY SHORTUSE - The Gasparilla Island Turtle Patrol has had a bit of bad luck lately, between Tropical Storm Andrea and a new development that has stopped their funding cold for the moment.According to Grace Harvey, the permit holder for Gasparilla Island, the Coastal Wildlife Club has taken away the money they need to operate ... and all because of a matter of security.
“We were notified on May 31 by Coastal Wildlife directors that they were withdrawing their support as of the next day,” Harvey said. “On one day’s notice we had to figure out a way to cover ourselves. We lost 14 volunteers, as well as financial backing for supplies and record-keeping equipment. We were allowed to keep the supplies we already had on hand, but they won’t last long.”
Harvey said that it all stems from the fact that Coastal Wildlife directors had demanded she give gated community security codes to them. She said it was apparent that didn’t go over well.
“I didn’t see a need for people who weren’t assigned to those areas having access to those privacy codes,” she said. “With this abrupt loss of volunteers and funding, it is a hardship. We’re thrilled, though, to have so many dedicated volunteers who have pulled double duty to make sure that every beach, every zone has been covered. But our patrol is stretched thin right now. We need people who can do any patrols from full-time to relief or vacation periods. We will train, no experience is necessary, no age limit.”
The small group of island sea turtle patrol volunteers is quickly setting up a new non-profit organization called the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Conservancy, and people can contribute to help the group out with expenses. Harvey is the president, Nancy Lingeman and Maureen McConnell are vice presidents, Betty Beall is the secretary and Ched McConnell is the treasurer.
While the details are being finalized, anyone interested in donating to the group can stop by the Boca Beacon office to donate. Eventually the group will open an account with an island bank.
Supplies needed include caution tape, screening, paint, stakes, plastic gloves, markers, record-keeping books and, ultimately, a GPS to determine the exact latitude and longitude of each nest.
“We are an all-volunteer organization,” Harvey said. “We don’t have an executive director to pay, and our volunteers either live here on the island or work here. If people can help, whether with donations or through volunteering, we appreciate it.”
Call Harvey at 964-5642 for more information.
Tropical Storm Andrea did more than a little damage to island nests when she blew through two weeks ago. There was nest damage, which the patrollers call “wash-overs” and “wash-outs.”
A wash-over means the water did reach the nests on the beach, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the nest will not hatch. A wash-out, however, means the water eroded the sand and took the buried eggs back to the ocean.
“At the north end zones 1 and 3 were wash-overs, not wash outs,” said volunteer Nancy Lingeman. “In zone 2 there were 12 nests, there are probably six that were washed away. In the island’s middle areas most of the nests were washed over unless they were in the dunes. In zone 4 we had to move one nest at the waterline, and we now have a new nest. We lost two in zone 6. In zone 7 we lost two, possibly three, and at 4th Street there is simply no beach left.”
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