You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.

Q. Is Gumbo Limbo Nature Center open?

A. Yes. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center including the Coastal Steward Sustainable Gift Shop, trails, gopher tortoises, aquariums, butterfly garden and exhibits will remain OPEN, however, the Sea Turtle Rehab Program and its related facility areas will be TEMPORARILY CLOSED. Hours of operation are:

  • Coastal Stewards Sustainable Gift Store: Tuesday – Sunday, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm; Monday, 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm; 24/7 online at https://shopgumbolimbo.org/
  • Nature Center and Aquariums: Tuesday – Sunday, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm; Monday, 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Nature Trails: Monday – Sunday, 7:00 am – Sunset
  • Schedule Programming: All City of Boca Raton programming remains as scheduled including summer camps and educational programs. See https://www.myboca.us/2096/Gumbo-Limbo-Nature-Center for details.

Q. Where have the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center’s sea turtles gone?

A. Sea turtles that had been in residence at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center were moved to other local facilities that are temporarily providing safety and care for them. Seven (7) sub-adult sea turtle patients were sent to the following locations: Loggerhead Marine Life Center, Zoo Miami, and the Florida Oceanographic Society. Such a move is not unprecedented, and occasionally necessary. That is a key reason why the FWC coordinates and supports a broad network of wonderful facilities that are all dedicated to saving sea turtles. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center has long been an active member of this vital network and has cared for many transferred sea turtle patients and hosted permanent residents, some as recently as this past fall. The Coastal Stewards have always provided funding and support when called upon to assist the Nature Center and other facilities.

Q. Why did this happen now?

A. There have been City of Boca Raton employment matters that directly resulted in the transfer of the sea turtles as directed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The unanticipated departure of our veterinarian for unrelated reasons in mid-February changed the status of the existing FWC permit, which prohibited the Nature Center from taking new turtle patients or providing veterinary care to turtles. When the Coastal Stewards offered a credentialed replacement, the City’s rehab coordinator was unwilling to put a new veterinarian on the permit. While the program was unable to provide rehab services, the rehab coordinator and the full-time sea turtle specialist at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center were placed on administrative leave by the City. The Coastal Stewards were not involved in any HR matters with the City of Boca Raton at any time.

The City of Boca Raton, Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District, and Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards all agreed to a systematic transition of the Sea Turtle Rescue, Rehab and Release (STR) program to the Coastal Stewards. Coastal Stewards’ Board and CEO had been advocating for a phased transition of the program that would conclude with the City’s rehab coordinator position transitioning last to Coastal Stewards.

Key reasons that sparked the original discussions were the ever-increasing costs associated with city employee salaries and benefits; jurisdictional concerns with taxpayer money funding increasing activity of city employees outside of the city, county, and region; and the 160% increase in operational costs over the last several years. As the needs in the region grew, the rehab program continued to accept more and more sea turtle patients, at times putting two or more patients in tanks. This all contributed to the annually increasing costs for which the City is responsible.

While the transition was discussed, Coastal Stewards maintained open communication with the City’s sea turtle professionals, having them participate in finance committee meetings, monthly board meetings, and open discussions throughout the planning phases that took place over the last year and a half. Prior to being placed on administrative leave by the City, those full-time employees working in the rehab program were invited by Coastal Stewards’ staff members and leadership to discuss joining Coastal Stewards to ensure a seamless transition of these vital programs. That did not occur and the City took HR related actions that impacted these programs.

Q. When will the sea turtles be back at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center?

A. With the City’s decision that the operations of a rehab facility for endangered species falls outside the scope of municipal government, the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards has agreed to take up the responsibility to move forward with operating a sea turtle rehabilitation, conservation and outreach program. The Coastal Stewards, with the active support of the City of Boca Raton as a collaborator, will apply for an organizational permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to operate a sea turtle rehabilitation program. Once Coastal Stewards receives the permit from the FWC, and facility upgrades at the Nature Center are complete, the resident sea turtles can return and our rescue, rehab and release efforts will resume!

Q. Who runs Gumbo Limbo Nature Center?

A. The City of Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District fund the Nature Center and the City of Boca Raton staff manage it with a team of professionals and city volunteers. The sea turtle rehab program was started approximately 12 years ago through a collaborative effort of city employees and dedicated nonprofit volunteers. All the rehab efforts, except the city employees assigned to rehab, have been funded by Coastal Stewards. As this program has grown beyond the scope of local government, all constituencies agreed that Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards would be a nice fit to assume all responsibility for the sea turtle rehab going forward (including employment of the applicable staff).

Q. What will be the City of Boca Raton’s ongoing involvement with protecting sea turtles and marine life?

A. The City of Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District will continue to fund the sea turtle conservation team that goes out each morning to monitor and document what is happening with sea turtle nests during nesting season. The Coastal Stewards have long honored and appreciated the work the City has done with their conservation efforts. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center remains a facility run by the City’s Recreation Services and the nature center manager. Everything that is loved about the nature center beyond the rescue, rehabilitation, research, and release of sea turtles; remains a priority for the District and the City. Completing the Sea Water Pipes and Pumping Project and bringing back the Observation Tower at Gumbo Limbo are prime examples of the collaborative spirit among all stakeholders.

Q. What is the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards organization?

A. Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards, established in 2012 (as Friends of Gumbo Limbo) is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization that sponsors sea turtle conservation, and advocates for the enhancement of the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.

Q. What is the mission of the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards?

A. The mission of the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards is to inspire people to support stewardship and research of coastal and marine ecosystems and focuses on the research, rescue, rehabilitation, and release of the endangered species of sea turtles.

Q. Who runs Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards?

A. Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards is led by its dedicated Board of Trustees and its CEO & President John Holloway. The Board’s Finance Committee and the CFO maintain diligent stewardship of the organization’s finances.

Q. What is the role of the Coastal Stewards now in South Florida?

A. We are responsible for environmental conservation outreach associated with sea turtles, operating the sea turtle rehab program at Gumbo Limbo, and providing a Sustainable Gift Store program at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. In addition, many academic research efforts associated with coastal and marine conservation have been and continue to be actively supported by Coastal Stewards.

Q. What is the role of Florida Atlantic University at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center?

A. The Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex is also home to a research facility for Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Biological Sciences. Research has focused on sea turtle behavior, shark sensory perception and salt levels on seagrasses. There has been an ongoing impressive and extensive study on leatherback turtles.

Q. How can I support the mission of the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards?

A. Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards is funded by corporate and private donations, and through its sustainable gift shop at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Donations to Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards can be made by visiting https://www.gumbolimbo.org/donate/

Q. Who are the new hires? When will they start?

A. Coastal Stewards are bringing aboard an experienced staff that will include a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Sea Turtle Program Manager and Sea Turtle Specialist, will be made in the next few months, and the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) permitting application process will commence as soon as possible.

Q. Could the City of Boca Raton sell the land on which Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is located?

A. No. The entirety of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center including the boardwalk, shoreline, and all its surrounding park land on the west side of A1A is part of the City of Boca Raton Red Reef Agreement that was signed into law to prohibit the sale and development for a period of 100 years.

Q. What is the update on the Tower Project?

A. Gumbo Limbo Coast Stewards and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District remain committed to the completion of the Tower Project, named in honor of Jacob Kosowsky, and consistent with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Q. I’ve been hearing chatter about the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center lately. What is the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards’ Board position?

A. Read our Chair’s letter here: https://www.gumbolimbo.org/letter-from-our-board/