Sea turtle nesting season starts March 1, so the nature center’s popular festival is Saturday this year. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center expects upwards of last year’s 3,500 people, according to manager Leanne Welch.
The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s no parking on site. So, give yourself time to take a free shuttle from nearby Spanish River Park. You can take the Spanish River Boulevard Bridge to A1A and turn right to get there. Admission is free and a $5 donation is requested. No pets are permitted.
Boca Voice asked Welch what to expect if you go:
Q: What’s your theme this year?
A: Plastic Free by the Sea. Our goal is to help our visitors understand that small changes they make in their everyday routine can have a big impact. Especially when it comes to reducing the use of single-use plastics. We asked our exhibitors and vendors to use only biodegradable food containers, no Styrofoam. We have a sponsor, Far from Boring, that has provided paper straws.
The city’s Utility Services Department will bring its Mobile Aqua Refreshment Station. MARS will provide our festival-goers with ice cold water on tap, so please bring your re-fillable water bottles.
Q: Is there anything new this year?
A: The launch of the city’s Coastal Connection Restaurant Program. The city’s new Office of Sustainability and our center have teamed up to provide a sustainability incentive program for local restaurants. The program aims to reduce our community’s environmental impact by encouraging positive changes in the restaurant industry and consumer habits.
The new program will premier with a presentation at noon on the patio.
Q: This event always marks the start of sea turtle nesting season. How did we do in 2018?
A: Overall, the 2018 sea turtle nesting season was slower than expected. The total nest tally was 723, resulting in over 40,000 sea turtle hatchlings emerging on Boca’s beaches. Total nest numbers have been increasing for the last decade. So optimism remains high for 2019. Green sea turtles are expected to nest in record numbers this year.
Q: What are your goals for your sea turtle rehab hospital?
A: Our goals are always to rehabilitate and release as many sea turtles as possible. Each year we learn more about ways to successfully treat our sea turtle patients.
Q: What will attendees find that’s new at Gumbo Limbo?
A: Our animal nutrition and food prep area was built by city staff, and generously funded by Friends of Gumbo Limbo. We now have a “kitchen” where we prepare the nearly 100 pounds of food we feed our animals each week. This room is not open to the public, but our visitors can watch the team at work through one of the windows.
In the FAU gallery, we have upgraded the small aquariums and our visitors can once again enjoy seeing our popular sea horses.
By Marci Shatzman