With a heavy heart I read your front-page article on the turmoil at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Memories of such happy times there flashed through my mind.
My granddaughters racing around the shipwreck tank looking for all their favorite inhabitants moving around, including Butter, the spiny lobster. Watching them nimbly stand on risers to watch surgery on the ever-so-calm turtles who reflected a confidence in the care they were being given. Seeing busloads of other awestruck children who were experiencing their first close-up encounter with live turtles and other creatures at Gumbo Limbo. Some of my favorite family photos were taken in the front sculpture garden atop the leatherback turtle.
I also was a Highland Beach sea turtle rescue volunteer for many years and the support given to all of us in this program by Gumbo Limbo staff was invaluable. Someone would always be there to take care of an injured hatchling or give advice about nests, injured turtles and other questions only a veterinarian could answer.
In addition, my Gumbo Limbo experience included working for a year in their gift shop, where the public’s overwhelming enthusiasm for the nature center and star attraction — the recovering and resident turtles — was very evident.
To say that all the above has ended, or even halted temporarily, is just devastating. Having been in leadership positions in higher education, I know there are challenging moments where you must be a guide and negotiator to attain the most beneficial results with the least amount of harm or loss.
Right now, there seems to be only losses at Gumbo Limbo for everyone, including injured turtles who now may have to wait overnight to be transported 40 miles for medical aid.
Hiring a public relations firm to gloss over this terrible situation is not the answer. Nor is monumental organizational change without rationale and research. Both have failed miserably for the Coastal Stewards, the nonprofit management team.
Insightful and benevolent leadership is critical if Gumbo Limbo is to continue to welcome and educate so many to the wonders of nature in southern Florida — and the sooner the better because nesting season 2023 has just started.
— Sandy Trento