New turtle center to open as early as next year on SPI

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Those who know about and love Sea Turtle Inc. can’t wait.

Finally, the organization is gearing up to break ground for the construction of its new facility.

“We are finally within one month of breaking ground of our new expansion that has been in the works for a long time,” said Jeff George, Sea Turtle Inc. executive director.

George called the expansion a state-of-the-art facility worth $3.7 million that he calls a beautiful new attraction for the Island.

“It’s been a record year at Sea Turtle Inc.,” George said. “We have seen record numbers of tourists visit our center and we had record numbers of nesting here on South Padre Island.”

George said in terms of helping sea turtles, things have been looking very bright for the organization.

Sea Turtle Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher, better known as “The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island.”

In 1999, Sea Turtle Inc. moved from Ila’s backyard into its current location at 6617 Padre Blvd.

Originally, the organization was formed to aid in the protection and recovery of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Their mission has since expanded into three parts — education, rehabilitation and conservation.

“We patrol the southernmost 47 miles of Texas on ATVs all day long looking for sea turtles,” George said.

Sea Turtles Inc.’s public education component is to educate tourists to make sure they are aware there are endangered sea turtles on the island.

The organization has multiple cameras rolling live for people from all over the world to see what’s happening at the facility, during releases and while patrolling the beach.

“Public awareness plays a big role,” George said. “We want people to want to protect these turtles.”