The Florida State Parks Foundation announced today that two grants awarded from the Sea Turtle Grants Program will help boost the sea turtle education program at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park and enhance protection for sea turtles at Sebastian Inlet State Park.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach holds a Marine Turtle Permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and is the only state park allowed to keep up to three female juvenile loggerhead sea turtles at its facility for educational purposes. These “Sea Turtle Ambassadors” are the centerpiece of the park’s robust marine educational programs.

However, the park’s outdoor sea turtle tank needs repair and updating of its aquaria life support system that keeps the water clean and at the proper temperature. 

The grant will enable this work to be done. 

As part of its sea turtle program, the park receives six-month old turtles and cares for them until they are about two years old. The turtles are then tagged and released back into the ocean as part of an ongoing research program. 

MacArthur Beach State Park is a valuable marine learning center for area schoolchildren. In a typical year, more than 14,000 children observe and learn about sea turtles through the park’s program.

At Sebastian Inlet State Park, a $24,475 grant will enable sea turtle friendly external lighting to be installed, as well as new interpretive panels educating visitors about sea turtles and what can be done to protect them. Conventional external lighting can disorient sea turtles coming ashore to nest and hatchlings trying to make their way to the oceans.

The park in Melbourne Beach is one of 13 parks to participate in FWC’s nesting beach survey. It hosts 800 nests along three miles of beaches during the summer sea turtle nesting season. The park runs parallel with a barrier island, spans more than 1,000 acres and is located within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR), which is a critical area for the nesting of loggerhead sea turtles. 

The beaches of the ACNWR support the largest nesting colony of loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere, the second largest in the world. The park also provides important nesting habitat for green and leatherback sea turtles. 

“Thanks to these very generous grants, these projects in motion will help improve the quality of life for the sea turtles using the outdoor tank at MacArthur and provide additional protection at Sebastian Inlet,” said Tammy Gustafson, Foundation President. 

The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate, the primary source of funding for Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Program. It also supports the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which since 2001 has awarded more than $2.7 million in grants for research, education, and conservation programs to benefit sea turtles in Florida.

The Florida State Parks Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.  

It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy. The volunteer Board of Directors represents private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests. These projects will be completed by the Florida State Parks Foundation Services, LLC, which is a limited liability company affiliate of the Foundation.

About the Author: Foundation Staff