The first hatchings of a local “Turtle Tribe” will be unveiled next week.
Or, at least their locations throughout the county.
The Gulf County Tourist Development Council will hold a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the “opening” of its “Turtle Trail” at 9 a.m. ET Tuesday at the Welcome Center.
The trail is a project of the TDC which celebrates the close link between Gulf County, its residents and visitors, and the sea turtles, green, loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley, which make local waters home.
Female turtles arrive each year in abundance to nest on local beaches: the peninsula has the highest density of nesting loggerheads in the region.
And during late summer, the effort is already underway, those nests yield thousands of hatchlings making a nighttime dash to the water.
There are six turtles in the TDC’s first hatching for the trail, which aims to bring awareness and education about turtles and the local environment.
The turtles were fabricated by local artist Alex Henderson and Monumental Fabrication and are smaller replicas of the turtle that will dominate the Florida Coastal Conservancy’s Sea Turtle Fountain on Marina Drive.
The TDC solicited applications for individuals who wanted to decorate the turtles prior to installation in local parks as well businesses who wished to part of the trail by sponsoring a turtle.
Artists Kristen Gerspacher, Mary Lamb-Hess, Carol Gnagey, Ryan Rish, Marjorie Schoelles and Deb Odierna worked their magic on the turtles.
“They all have their own personalities,” said TDC executive director Kelli Godwin.
The sponsoring businesses were Sand Dollar Café, Scallop Republic, Serenity Beach Rentals, Happy Cabanas, Estate Jewelry and Loan and Off the Map Expeditions.
The first six will be placed at the Lookout Beach Access, Salinas Park Bayside, the TDC Welcome Center, Dunes Drive Beach Access, Port St. Joe City Commons and Dead Lakes Park.
Godwin said the TDC is encouraging visitors and residents alike to check on the turtles, and the trail, and take a photo with each turtle, post it on Instagram if so inclined.
Those that complete the tour, and have photos with all six, will be given a free stainless steel straw courtesy of the TDC.
The straws extend a theme this spring and summer pertaining to eliminating plastics, straws and shopping bags, a theme which has evolved from the local arts scene and the “Turtles and Trash” exhibit at The Joe Center for the Arts.
The goal is to continue with “hatchings” in subsequent years, extending the “Turtle Trail” to as many of the county’s 32 parks and boat ramps as possible.