Turtle Up Mississippi!

Sand Sculpture image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

Who doesn’t like to dig in the sand on the beach? Everyone does! So while you are at it, you can learn about the cool turtles that depend on these beaches to raise their young. Join the fun at the inaugural Sand Jam 2021 “Turtle Up Mississippi”— A Celebration of Mississippi’s Native Turtles – on Saturday, June 12th on Ocean Springs front beach. This first-year event will feature a team sand sculpting competition, informational booths, beach and water activities, as well as food vendors.

“I think we’re all ready to get outside and enjoy the summer and the beach!” exclaimed Barbara Medlock, Jackson County Outdoor Recreation Specialist. “Having a celebration of our native turtles is a great way to start a Saturday. ‘Turtle Up Mississippi!’ means we’re trying to ‘up our game’ toward promoting and protecting wildlife and particularly our endangered species. For Sand Jam 2021, our turtles will be center stage.”

In addition to the sand sculpting competition (turtles of course), a variety of informational booths from the Central MS Turtle Rescue, the National Audubon Society, the Marine Education Center, and other organizations will be on site. Pop Brothers and Klassy Wrappers will be on hand just in case you get hungry.

Medlock added that kayaks will be available for anyone to try, with expert paddlers from Paradise Paddlers available to share great kayak tips.

“Come enjoy the front beach in Ocean Springs and help celebrate our native turtles. Don’t forget – Leave No Trace! Turtle Up Mississippi!”

This fun program is hosted by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and Jackson County Recreation Department. The team sand sculpture competition is open to ages 17 and younger and will be split into three age categories: 7 years old and younger, 8 to 12 years old, and 13 to 17 years old. A limit of 15 teams per category will be allowed to compete.

Darcie Crew, Director of Jackson County Recreation says this unique event will be a fun way to celebrate native turtles while also educating participants and spectators on how we can all work together to protect them.

“Our Mississippi wildlife is amazing, but some species need our help to survive and thrive. So, it is important to us to educate people on the seven species of endangered turtles native to our area and ways that people can help protect them,” says Crew.

The event is a collaboration between Jackson County and several coastal Mississippi businesses and organizations that have a deep connection with protecting our Mississippi land, waterways, and wildlife.

“Special thanks to Rain Residential, Chevron, Plastic Free Gulf Coast, Wild at Heart Animal Rescue, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, HOMETECH, Keep Mississippi Beautiful, Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue, and the Friends of Arts, Culture, and Education for their support with this event,” says Medlock.

Team registration is now open for the event and costs $20 per team to participate. Medals in each age division will be awarded and an overall “Sanding-Ovation” award will be presented to one team. The overall winner will have the opportunity to name a turtle being rehabilitated by Wild at Heart Rescue. For more information on how you can compete in Sand Jam 2021, visit www.jacksoncountysandjam.com or call 228-826-5330.

Report

Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.

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