Protecting sea turtle nests during extensive dune improvement projects

What happens to delicate turtle eggs when heavy equipment arrives on the beaches to restore the dunes?

ST. JONES COUNTY, Florida — “That’s what gets me moving every morning, these tracks,” said Bob Frazier.

He is referring to the footprints that female turtles leave in the sand overnight.

“I love it,” Frazier nodded. “You know that something big just crawled out of the water, made a nest and crawled back!”

Fraser from St. Augustine walks the beach every day, checking to see if any sea turtles have made new nests under the sand. He and volunteers from the sea turtle patrol then mark the area with cones and brightly colored ribbon.

It’s a delicate matter to help endangered species.

As such, it seems that large machinery such as bulldozers and dump trucks would not go well with fragile sea turtle nests. This vehicle is currently located south of St. Augustine Beach, preparing to spread sand and build up eroded dunes there and at Butler Beach.

Frazier was brought in to ensure that sea turtle nests were not disturbed in the construction area.

The first step is to move and relocate the sea turtle eggs from the project site.

Then, while dune restoration crews are actually restoring the dunes, Fraser watches over the site.

“Every day. We give them (contractors) full permission before they can start every day. So we make sure that nothing is damaged by the time they start,” he said.

Frazier has done this job before and says it can be successful.

This year seems to be another good year for sea turtle nests throughout St. John’s County. There are even clusters of nests on different beaches.

“What you’re seeing now is an effort from 25 to 30 years ago, and now you’re seeing growth,” Frazier said.

Frazier’s work with turtles is serious work, and he loves it.

“That’s why I do what I do. I love nature. So when I see footprints, it’s the art of nature,” he nodded.

The Butler Beach Dunes Improvement Project is expected to take two months to complete and only started this week.

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