The luxurious Ritz-Carlton Residences in Singer Island place turtle conservation as a priority
Luxury properties are not typically known for emphasizing environmental issues, but the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singer Island, Palm Beach recently took on sea turtle conservation as a priority.
Miami-based Lionheart Capital invested $120 million for 146 condo units at the property in June 2010, when it was still known as 2700 North Ocean Drive.
Lionheart brought in Ritz-Carlton to manage the property, but not before managing partner Ophir Sternberg learned that sea turtles were a major concern at the property.
“When we bought, we weren’t aware that this part of the coastline was so heavily used for turtle nesting,” Sternberg said. “Initially we thought this was a liability, but we said ‘let’s make it a positive.’”
Lionheart invested about $100,000 to install turtle-friendly, amber-colored outdoor lights, and purchase new beach furniture that could be completely removed every night. The return on the investment is a better relationship with the conservation community and the benefit of telling residents and guests they are near an ecological treasure. A newsletter and beach cleanups also help educate residents.
Property officials create a program
To learn more about the nesting phenomenon, Sternberg and his team visited the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a wildlife rescue center and educational facility in Juno Beach.
“They came out to our property and formulated a program we could follow,” Sternberg said.
On April 19, Lionheart hosted Roderic Mast, a leading sea turtle conservationist with Arlington, Va.-based Conservation International, at the Ritz-Carlton Residences.
Mast gave a talk to a group of Loggerhead Marinelife Center donors, highlighting the plight of sea turtles, which comprise seven species that are all either “endangered” or “critically endangered.”
In an interview afterward, Mast said habitat destruction or degradation is the biggest threat.
“Efforts to conserve habitat have the biggest positive impact,” he said. “Some areas where lights are turned off at night show a huge return by sea turtles immediately.”
Palm Beach County is an epicenter of sea turtle nesting because its beaches jut out further east into the Atlantic Ocean than the rest of the Florida coast, closer to the Gulf Stream current, which is like a highway for sea turtle migration.
Mast said that, despite Florida’s overly developed coastline, it has become a leader in terms of encouraging turtle-friendly lighting or enforcing bans against bright lights on the beach. Many Broward County municipalities and some in Miami-Dade County also have ordinances that require lights to be dimmed or switched to a muted amber color.
Lighting is a crucial problem because turtle hatchlings are attracted to light. If a resort has bright lights on at night, baby turtles will walk toward the lights, instead of the ocean, and are likely to get run over, stuck in a stairwell or die of dehydration because they are lost.
The lack of bright lights at some resorts, particularly retirement communities, can be controversial.
Mast praised the partnership of businesses with conservation groups: “A lot of this wouldn’t happen without business support.”
Gordon Gray, a Loggerhead Marinelife Center board member, said he believes sea turtles can be an asset to beach properties. “We’re happy with all the sponsorship we can get,” he said. “Even if you don’t believe in global warming as a problem, there is no doubt that we are decimating the world’s ocean through overfishing, and this is a serious problem.”
Other businesses listed as community partners on the Loggerhead Marinelife Center website are Jupiter Beach Resort and Spa, PGA National Resort and Spa, Holiday Inn Express Juno Beach South, Florida Power & Light Co. , Loggerhead Marina, Jupiter Dive Center and Anchor Commercial Bank .
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Written by Paul Brinkmann.