By Steve Plunkett

Ailing sea turtles won’t have to worry whether they were found the right day of the week to be rehabilitated at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.

Beach and Park District taxpayers will pony up $120,000 to fund a full-time rehabilitation coordinator along with $250,000 to put educational exhibits at the turtle tanks being installed at the nature center. 

District commissioners told their staff to draw up the appropriate papers at their March 22 meeting.

“This is not so much to take care of the sick turtles, which it does do, but rather it promotes the educational objectives of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center,” District Chairman Earl Starkoff said. “It’s tangible evidence of the interaction of the environment with the life around it.”

Commissioner Dennis Frisch worried that if the beach-park district approved the expenses it would be seen as the “deep pockets” for other requests. 

He also was concerned that there is no long-range plan for Gumbo Limbo.

“Let’s make believe that we approved the tanks and now we approve a supervisor. And then Gumbo Limbo says we want to make this even bigger and they want to bring in another professor. And maybe they can’t afford that,” Frisch said.

“And then that professor needs a secretary. And then maybe they can’t afford that, so they come back [to us]. And now they have a secretary and a supervisor and a professor and they need another building, and they can’t afford that.”

Robyn Morigerato, vice president of the Friends of Gumbo Limbo, said her group raised $250,000 to stock Gumbo Limbo’s tanks with sea creatures. 

The second $250,000 infusion from the beach-park district “would transform our new tanks and habitats into a true learning center,” she said.

Money for the rehabilitation coordinator was also needed, she said. “We look to you for additional help,” Morigerato said.

Gumbo Limbo’s seven-bed sea turtle rehab facility opened in late 2010.

The Friends organization envisions both interactive and interpretive exhibits surrounding the nature center’s four new tanks. 

The first tank was supposed to open in time for this year’s Sea Turtle Day in early March but fell victim to construction delays. It now is supposed to open in early May. An exhibit showing a mangrove habitat should be in place about the same time followed by habitats showcasing a tropical coral    reef and an artificial reef/shipwreck in the fall.                                                       Ú


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