Talking about turtles: Girl Scout troop advocating for beach light ordinance

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JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

CRESTVIEW — Sea turtles have a new group of advocates.

And they’re all under 12-years-old.

Since December of 2017 five girls in Girl Scout Troop 676 have been working on their Bronze Award project to have Okaloosa County join the ranks of Florida Counties that have ordinances on beach lighting. Currently, Okaloosa is one of five counties in the state without an ordinance and the only county in the panhandle without an ordinance, said Rob Brown, spokesperson for Okaloosa County.

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It was a trip to Gulfarium that gave 10-year-old Liliana Tambone the idea to create a petition for a light ordinance.

“It’s very dangerous to the sea turtles because they think the lights are moonlight,” Liliana said over the phone Tuesday.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, artificial lights near the beach can deter nesting female sea turtles and disorient hatchlings. Homeowners in coastal areas can decrease light pollution by turning off unnecessary lights or shielding the light source.

The Bronze Award is a voluntary project which requires about 30 hours of time. Once the girls had their project topic picked, they started researching how to start a petition.

“They all divided up the research,” said Jaime Tambone, Liliana’s mom and the Troop Leader. “Some of them didn’t even know what a petition was. They drafted it at their meetings and started creating poster boards and finding events to collect signatures.”

The girls have been making their way around the county to get the word out with booths at a sea turtle release in June abd a local Fourth of July Festival. The girls were also collecting signatures at their local library recently. So far, they’ve reached 500 signatures, which “feels great,” said 10-year-old Payton Blumer.

“Sea turtles are one of my favorite animals,” she said.

As a troop leader and parent, Tambone said it’s been rewarding to watch the girls work together for a good cause.

“I’ve known most of them since they were in kindergarten,” she said. “It’s been really amazing to see how passionate they are. None of them have done anything of this caliber before.”

Liliana said she’s enjoyed going out in the public and hearing what people had to say. Both Liliana and Payton said they liked working on the project with their friends.

“We’re all very close, but I think it’s brought us all closer,” Liliana said.

Next week, the girls will present their petition to the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners. They’re more excited than scared, which makes their troop leader proud.

“I hope this gives the girls a sense of ownership and leadership,” Jaime said. “They can advocate for what they feel is right and make a huge impact.”

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