By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Turtles must have a darn good public relations agent in Sea Isle City.
Sara the Turtle is famously known as the town mascot, symbolizing Sea Isle’s concern for the environment.
Every summer, the city holds the eco-themed Sara the Turtle Festival to teach children, in a fun way, about the role turtles and other animals play in nature.
The importance of turtles is also underscored by the “Watch for Turtles” and “Turtle X-ing” signs that are scattered around the city to remind motorists to be careful about the diamondback terrapins lumbering across the road while searching for nesting spots.
There’s even a volunteer group called Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue that helps to protect the diamondbacks.
Whew, we told you the turtles had a great P.R. agent!
But that’s not all. For about 30 years, the Sea Isle City Environmental Commission has been selling turtle-themed T-shirts to raise money for the town’s favorite reptile and other environmental causes.
New T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Save a Turtle 2020” are now on sale at the Sea Isle City Welcome Center at 300 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. They cost $10 each for short sleeve shirts and $15 for long sleeves.
Annette Lombardo, who chairs the Environmental Commission, said the T-shirt sales are expected to raise about $5,000, a figure that is consistent with other sales in recent years.
“The majority of T-shirts that are sold are for Christmas presents. Some people collect them and buy them year after year,” Lombardo said in an interview Monday.
She explained that the money helps to buy tubing that serves as a turtle barrier along the west side of Landis Avenue in parts of the north end of town, thus preventing the terrapins from trying to cross the road and getting run over by cars.
Proceeds from T-shirt sales also support the family-friendly educational beachcombing tours, organized by the Environmental Commission, that focus on the Jersey Shore’s ecosystem and marine life.
Children taking the summer tours are given some environmentally themed goodies, including shell-collecting plastic buckets, a coloring book decorated with marine life and a beachcomber bracelet.
Lombardo said 10,000 coloring books are handed out each year, including 3,000 that are donated to teachers to use as a fun tool for classroom instruction on the environment.
The Environmental Commission also uses money from the turtle T-shirt sales to buy trees that are given away to local homeowners during a raffle. The trees help to add more greenery around Sea Isle.
Lombardo credited former Environmental Commission chairwomen Shirley Dunn and the late Kathy Giebel for coming up with the idea for the T-shirt sales about 30 years ago.