An Eagle Scout Project under way at Tierra Verde’s Fort DeSoto Park points up another local effort toward sea turtle conservation. Led by Life Scout Jackson S. Willis with BSA Troop 219, the project is the building of a multi-sided educational display about sea turtles, their lifecycle, and conservation efforts. Several hundred thousand visitors from all over the world visit to Fort DeSoto annually. This educational kiosk should raise public awareness about sea turtles and inform visitors how to avoid disturbing the beach nests of sea turtles. The display will feature graphic sides, sea turtle models, and an illustrative representation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that only one in 1,000 sea turtle eggs survive to adulthood.
Fort DeSoto Park is known as one of the best beaches in the United States. Ft. DeSoto is the largest park in the Pinellas County Park System and contains over seven miles of waterfront, drawing visitors near and far to its sparkling sands. Endangered Loggerhead sea turtles, which use the beaches for nesting, also visit the park annually. The Loggerhead nesting season lasts from the beginning of May to the end of September. Ft. DeSoto is a primary destination for Loggerheads returning to their birthplace to repopulate. This year, Ft. DeSoto is on track to reach a record number of nests with over fifty noted since May. Most years, the park reaches over 150 nests by the end of the season.
The North Beach of Fort DeSoto is a high traffic area for beach goers and there are information displays for sea birds and ocean foliage, but nothing on the remarkable Loggerhead and other sea turtle species whose nests hide nature’s treasure. As one of the busiest beaches, park rangers estimate the North Beach receives on average between 150,000 and 300,000 visitors annually. As the sea turtle kiosk is intended to last a minimum of ten years, the project should have a significant impact educating beach loving visitors. The hope is this Eagle Scout Project is only the first of many projects and programs designed for the protection of endangered sea turtles. (Below is a loggerhead at Fort DeSoto Beach.)