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Orange Beach turtle toy boxes encourage sharing, wildlife education and recycling

Shell Beach access Close UpAnyone who has visited the Alabama Gulf State Park’s public beach accesses in Orange Beach the past two summers has probably seen the colorful turtle signs with handmade wooden boxes at their bases. The words on the boxes say it all: “Need a toy - Take a Toy. Have a toy - Leave a Toy.”

The turtle boxes have been a success since being introduced at the end of the summer of 2015. City Administrator Ken Grimes said the idea all started with early morning walks he would take on the beach in 2012, before the “Leave Only Footprints” clean beach initiative was introduced in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. Grimes would collect plastic toys he found on the beach, soon having bags full.

Already a hit Memorial Weekend 2017

Fast-forward a few years and with Logistics Coordinator Chris Litton finding the bags of toys stored away in the trunk of Grimes’ old city vehicle, the idea of having beach-toy recycling boxes sprung to life.

“We were also trying to promote the Share the Beach program because they would be out there, too, while I was walking early in the morning,” Grimes said, referring to the Alabama Sea Turtle Conservation Program that has volunteers working each nesting season along the coastline and marking nests.  “So it started to make sense that if you can make people think about collecting this stuff and bringing it back for others to use, it could be successful. We had all of these ideas of why it wouldn’t work but it didn’t happen that way.”

With the help of artist Kerry Parks from the Coastal Art Center’s Hot Shop, Orange Beach cabinet maker David Hallex, teenager Savannah Townley’s painting skills, employees at Orange Beach Public Works and Litton coordinating the program, the turtle boxes became a reality.

Perdido Pass East from boardwalk

The turtle boxes can now be found at all of the public state beaches in Orange Beach including Romar Beach, Cotton Bayou Beach, East Alabama Point on Perdido Pass and the “Shell Beach” access east of Perdido Pass. A turtle box is also at the new sand volleyball court at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.

Grimes said the turtle box displays are a good photo opportunity for families, too.“In addition to encouraging sharing, it shows children how we all need to coexist with endangered sea turtles on the coastline,” Grimes said. “It shows them and brings educational awareness to other citizens who are enjoying the beach. If they understand more about the sea turtles we can better educate them about the nesting birds. We now have ‘Leave Only Footprints’ as a platform and sea turtles are one of the main reasons why we remove all items at night.”

“Make a memory and remember that we’re all working together to help the sea turtles hatch,” he said.

Find more information on Share the Beach go to For details on Leave Only Footprints, visit