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Padre Island National Seashore volunteers voice concerns at commissioners court meeting

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 17, 2021

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Sea-turtle releases have been a tradition for years over at Padre Island National Seashore. People come from near and far to watch the tiny turtles crawl toward their home.

Jan Roberson has been a volunteer at Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) for 5 years, and said she has heard the park is now going to charge a fee to watch the sea-turtle releases.

“People are still coming here, paying for an entrance fee, and not being assured that they will see a release,” she said.

However, PINS public information officer Kelly Taylor said federal beach will not charge a sea-turtle release fee. The park will only charge an entrance fee, which it already does.

Roberson also said PINS is planning on having fewer sea-turtle releases than in years past.

Taylor said the group has had to cut down on the number of turtle releases from about 25 a year to about four or five due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year and last year.

Marilyn Litt, a resident of Padre Island, said this could have an impact on businesses.

“This would really be a tragedy for us, not only economically as a community, but it’s one of the reasons why so many people have moved here," she said, "because we love the gulf, we love the beach, we love the sea turtles."

Roberson also accused PINS of trying to close the beach during sea-turtle nesting season. Taylor again said that is not true.

“We have to go through these long planning processes that involve public comment and public input, so we’re not suddenly going to shut down the beach during turtle season,” Taylor said.

She said they would only shut the beach down due to extreme weather conditions.

Roberson went on to point a finger at PINS and said they are trying to fire Donna Shaver, the chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at PINS. In fact, that’s what Roberson and the volunteers spent much of the meeting talking about.

“They’re trying to get Donna, trying to railroad her out of her position and they have suggested that she retire,” she said.

When asked about whether PINS would comment on Shaver's status, Kelly said they said they do not comment on personnel issues. When asked if a multimedia journalist could speak with Shaver, Taylor said she was not in the office and she did not have permission to talk with a reporter.

Taylor said a meeting is planned for Friday to discuss the sea-turtle releases for the upcoming year. Roberson said she is planning on meeting with Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid and Kleberg County officials about the issues.