So far this summer, turtles seem to be nesting in greater numbers on Siesta Key, according to Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association.
In the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill, Luckner told the July 7 SKA audience, many people were worried about the future of the large turtles that make the Gulf of Mexico their home.
However, Mote Marine Laboratory has reported a 30% increase in total turtle nests this year in Sarasota County, she said. “This is really outstanding. It’s good news to share.”
Many of the Siesta nests have been found behind condos that are closer to the beach, she added.
As of the week of July 10 to July 16 — the last week for which I could find statistics on the Mote website (www.mote.org) — the total number of loggerhead nests on Siesta was 129; for green turtles, two.
Concerns have been raised as well about a plant called railroad vine that Key residents have been seeing in larger numbers on Turtle Beach, Luckner said, especially regarding the impact it might have on the turtles.
As its name implies, Luckner said, the vine makes a track along the beach, essentially grabbing hold of the sand. It is called a “pioneer plant” because it sets the stage for other plants to start growing in an area, she added.
“Railroad vines are native to our area and are a natural species,” SKA board member Bob Waechter told the group.
“It helps shore accretion,” Luckner said, so state regulations say it cannot be cut except in special circumstances.
The increase in its presence mostly has been noted behind the condominiums on Turtle Beach, Luckner said. Residents have worried that the vine will hamper turtles coming ashore to nest or, especially, the hatchlings trying to make their way out to the Gulf.
Experts she has consulted “do not believe this is a problem,” Luckner said. “I do know that there are turtle nests in areas where there is railroad vine.”
Nonetheless, she said, anyone who sees an obstruction to nesting turtles or hatchlings should report the matter to Mote.
Sarasota County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson pointed out that one of the most pressing issues with Turtle Beach is the rate of erosion; yet, “it takes quite a while (for the county) to put a renourishment (project) together.” She added, “Obviously, you come closer to the railroad vines as the beach erodes.”
Nancy Deckard, a Gulf and Bay Club resident, said she had seen railroad vines going up to turtle nests by Point of Rocks. The adult turtles had not appeared hampered by it, she added.
If the turtles can make their way around the furniture people leave out on the beach, Deckard said, “railroad vines are a piece of cake.”
Then Deckard reported a recent incident in which a turtle had climbed over a homeowner’s wall and ended up on its back. People righted it, she said. “The turtle was pretty resilient.”
Luckner reminded everyone that turtle patrol volunteers always are welcome. “We never have too many watchers.”
Call the bank
After Sarasota Sheriff’s Deputy Chris McGregor’s July 7 report during the SKA meeting, discussion arose about litter in the vacant lot at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Treasure Boat Way.
Katherine Zimmerman, an audience member, said she sees a lot of beer cans dumped there on the weekends.
“We’ve never had too many problems out there,” McGregor said. Getting the lot’s owner, a bank, to post it against trespassing is not easy, he added.
Lourdes Ramirez, former SKA president, said that the bank used to have a chain-link fence around the property. However, because such fences are not permitted in the Key’s zoning district, the bank had to take it down.
“I called the bank and asked them to please put some barricade there on Treasure Boat,” said SKA board member Ann Kaplan.
The person she spoke with said the bank would not take such action, Kaplan added. “So if a lot more people called and complained ... that would really help keep people from going in there and partying.”
Kaplan said she thought the bank was Iberia. She was correct. The sign on the property lists a phone number — 487-3070 — and a website: www.iberiabankproperties.com.
SKA board member Joe Volpe, who lives in the Treasure Boat neighborhood — along with Kaplan and Ramirez — made a motion that the association send a letter to the bank asking it to address the lack of barricade on the site. It passed unanimously.
Contact Rachel Brown Hackney at [email protected].