The brand new, much expanded Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is now open to the public after years of fundraising and construction work.
A tour on Friday, Nov. 29 and Saturday, Nov. 30, lead about 2,000 visitors through the facility, located off Charlie Medlin Drive at 302 Tortuga Lane in Surf City. They observed some of the turtles receiving care, including the six Wrightsville Beach turtles.
The facility is valued at an estimated $2 million, including in-kind donations and donations from several stakeholders.
“Our donations are in the range of 25 to 100 dollars,” said Jean Beasley, director of the center. “We’re talking about a lot of stakeholders, and some of those stakeholders are children.”
The actual execution of the facility, including architectural planning and permitting, took more than three years to complete.
Nancy Fahey, Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project Coordinator, said the new facility is a wonderful change, featuring big bay doors and an elevated rolling cart to transport the turtles more easily.
“Mostly it’s wonderful for the turtles,” Fahey said. “They have bigger tanks. … They have the freedom of movement.”
There are about 60 turtles in residence, but Beasley said the number varies because cold-stunned turtles regularly come in and out of the facility.
“The biggest improvement there is that we have a state-of-the-art water treatment system in the facility,” Beasley said.
The water treatment system is similar to a small town water treatment center, she said, recirculating and cleaning water at a rate of 420 gallons per minute. Another feature of the new facility is central air conditioning and heating, which is why turtles were moved into the facility before the cold weather.
Within the past year four turtles have been brought from the Wrightsville Beach area to the hospital. Most recently, Alpha, found in Bradley Creek, was admitted.
Fahey said they are brainstorming educational programming ideas that could be geared toward children and families.
“It’s like a dream come true and it still is hard to believe where we are from where we came,” Fahey said.
The facility will be open to the public on Saturday, Dec. 7, Saturday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and active military and $3 for children.
“It has been a long journey,” Beasley said. “… We know that we’re not done now.”