Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center History
The Topsail Turtle Project was organized by Karen Beasley, as she saw the need to preserve and protect the Sea Turtle nests, nesting females and hatchlings on the 26 miles of coastline on Topsail Island. After Karen’s early death, the torch was passed on to her mother, Jean Beasley, today the Executive Director of both the nesting program and the rehabilitation center.
The dream of a rehabilitation center was realized through the tireless efforts of the Beasley family; their financial support; the support of the project members; and the generous donations of money, time and material from local residents, businesses and visitors.
After breaking ground in May 2010, the new Sea Turtle Center facility in Surf City, NC opened its doors on November 7th, 2013. After years of working in a crowded, cramped 900 square-foot space, caring for up to 40 turtles, the center moved into its new 13,000+ square-foot building.
How We Did it the First Time (1997 – 2013)
In 1996 a small group of dedicated volunteers with the Topsail Turtle Project stood on an empty lot in Topsail Beach. The group shared a dream…. They had the opportunity to care for an injured sea turtle who came to be called Lucky. Lucky was the sea turtle who pointed the way to the need for a place in North Carolina for sick and injured sea turtles, who required long term rehabilitation. Lucky was cared for with lots of TLC and was able to be returned to the wild. The question was where would other sick and injured sea turtles in need of medical attention go for treatment and care. Thus the dream of a place on Topsail Island to provide that kind of sanctuary for sea turtles in need was born.
In 1996 the town of Topsail Beach generously offered to lease a small lot on Banks Channel to the group for such a facility. The arrival of hurricanes Bertha and Fran put the plans on hold, but the dream lived on. Finally in the spring of 1997 it appeared that plans could be put in motion again.
Three North Carolina sea turtles who had spent the winter at Sea World of Florida were due to arrive back in North Carolina in mid-june. They would need a place to go for care and treatment. Could the group handle it? With a resounding “Yes!” plans accelerated and by June 19th an outdoor rehabilitation area was ready to receive Karen, Corey and the well known local favorite, Huffy.
As the summer of 1997 passed volunteers were busy caring for the injured sea turtles while monitoring the beach for nests each morning and making sure that baby sea turtles made it safely to the water each night. Each day in the background were the beautiful songs of hammer and saw. Construction had begun on the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. The dream was a step nearer to reality.
Support for the project was overwhelming. Donations were generous. Local business did their part. It was all coming together. There were nail biting times to be sure, and days when everything seemed to go wrong. But things kept moving forward.
We moved into our new 900 sq. ft. facility in October 1997, where air and water temperatures are kept sea turtle warm.
Thanks to all those who have supported the building effort, and to those who continue to support the operating costs; and to the dedicated people who have worked so hard supplying and staffing the center. The dream has become a reality.
Rescue Center Mission Statement
- The conservation and protection of all species of marine turtles both in the water and on the beach
- The rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick and injured sea turtles
- To inform and educate the public regarding the plight of all sea turtles and the threat of their extinction
- To provide an experiential learning site for students of biology, wildlife conservation, and/or veterinary medicine from around the world.