NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - In about a month, our beach will get pretty busy. While we will notice more people hitting the sand, There's a special volunteer group that will be watching out for something different taking up some oceanfront real estate.
The North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol starts walking the beach looking for signs of a sea turtle crawl starting in early May, and if you think there's no way a sea turtle would nest on our busy section of the Grand Strand, you aren't the only one.
Linda Mataya, one of the original patrol members, remembers several people saying there's no way you'll get any nests. "We always said if we had one or two nests we would be happy," she says. "In 2011 we were getting calls...there's another nest, there's another nest." They went from 9 nests in their very first year to 18 nests in 2011.
It wasn't just the nest count that had the group so excited.
"By the middle of May we had probably 60 volunteers. So we went from 12 to 60 volunteers, and of course the first year we found 9 nests on North Myrtle Beach. Once they emerged and the word got out, everybody wanted to do it," says Mataya. It got so popular, the group now has to limit the volunteer number to 84.
The volunteers are expected to get their hands dirty too. Mataya says all of the volunteers pick up trash as they walk their two mile stretch of sand every morning. The patrol also works with the NMB Sanitation department. Mataya says, "We go over around the start of the season and talk to the sanitation department. They're on the beach at about 4 in the morning so they're going to see any activity before we see it…I'll get a call about 4:30 in the morning...there's something on the beach! And they are excited!"
The community of North Myrtle Beach has also rallied behind this growing civic organization. Rob Kayton, another original patrol member and community leader said, "Then one night we look up and there's Mayor Hately and her granddaughter. And a couple nights later, there's a couple councilmen and their children. We've had Vanna White out here." The NMB Sea Turtle Patrol is very grateful for the outreach and support they have gotten from city leaders.
You can find the volunteer group at almost every NMB festival educating people about sea turtles and what the volunteer group does. They also have a hands on exhibit at the North Myrtle Beach Historical Museum.