Surely they wouldn't do this if they felt like the island was slipping beneath the waves, right?
Sea Turtle Inc. expansion starts
Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2017 10:45 pm
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — During the summer months, people pack the beach to watch the sea turtle hatchings shuffle their way to the water as the sun rises over the Gulf.
On Thursday, people gathered, too. But this was at sunset near the bay, and it was to celebrate a new but different future for the sea turtles.
The sun clearly was setting as the board of directors for Sea Turtle Inc. shoveled sand. During the process, they took a step closer to having a world-class facility to help turtles.
And it will happen quickly. Construction of this new multi-million state-of-the-art facility begins today near its current 5-acre site.
Phase 1 is expected to be completed in December. The construction will consist of an amphitheater, a student center with indoor aquariums and additional parking.
“The expansion of the facility is worth $3.5 million, and very generous people and anonymous donors were helpful in raising the funds for the new facility,” said Jeff George, Sea Turtle Inc. executive director. The new facility is expected to accommodate 250,000 to 300,000 visitors per year.
Phase 2 will be a redesign of the current facility and will begin after the first phase is complete. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Jerry Wilson, Island resident. “They do a lot with injured see turtles, and the facility has been outgrown for some time.”
In 2016, Sea Turtles Inc. raised $2.1 million in donations. Annually, the facility draws in about 140,000 visitors, and there is no entry fee, just a request of a donation.
“We are proud that this is going to be the most attended Sea Turtle facility in the world,” George said. “Our vet clinic will be the most sophisticated sea turtle clinic in the world, and this is a big step from our little grassroots facility.”
Sea Turtle Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher, better known as “The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island.” In 1999, Sea Turtle Inc. moved from Ila’s backyard into its current location at 6617 Padre Blvd. Originally, the organization was formed to aid in the protection and recovery of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. Its mission has since expanded into three parts — education, rehabilitation and conservation.