Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sea Turtle Research Center Not Just a Dream; Jekyll Foundation Gets $750,000 Grant; Work Should Begin in 2006

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sea Turtle Research Center Not Just a Dream; Jekyll Foundation Gets $750,000 Grant; Work Should Begin in 2006

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

JEKYLL ISLAND -- Georgia sea turtles got an early Christmas present on Tuesday.

A planned treatment, research and education center devoted to aiding the five species of imperiled sea turtles found in Georgia waters is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Jekyll Island Foundation has received a $750,000 grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation to help establish the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on the island.

The center will be the first of its kind in Georgia. It will serve as hub of a network to help locate and aid sea turtles discovered stranded in Georgia, Northeast Florida, the Carolinas, federal and state wildlife biologists said.

Injured or sick sea turtles currently found in Georgia must be driven to Daytona Beach, Fla., or Charleston, S.C. That is where the closest facilities equipped to care for the marine animals are located, said Sandy MacPherson, national sea turtle coordinator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service based in Jacksonville.

"We have very few rehabilitation facilities in the northern zone. It's really problematic for them in Georgia because when they find an injured or sick turtle they have to drive it for several hours to a facility that can treat it," MacPherson said.

In some cases, the turtle doesn't survive such a trip, biologists said.

A total of about $2 million has been raised for the project since fund-raising efforts began two years ago by the non-profit Jekyll Island foundation.

The 102-year-old former power plant building in the historic district will be renovated to accommodate the planned state-of-the art facility.

The renovation should begin in the first quarter of the year. The center is scheduled to open in 2007, according to Bailey Izard, Jekyll Island Foundation chairman.

An estimated 750,000 people annually are expected to visit the center when it opens, Izard said. …

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