�Turtle� race will raise money for educational trip to Costa Rica

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Apr. 25, 2007 - Ever seen a turtle race? This might not sound like an exciting venture, but then again, "The Great Costa Rican Turtle Race" isn't your ordinary race — or turtles.

This race will be dispatched in relatively short order with the "turtle" crossing the finish line first winning a $500 prize. The remainder of the funds raised from the Saturday event will help pay for 15 students' and 2 sponsors' educational adventure to Costa Rica this summer. 

The race will feature up to 300 turtles — actually, green ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 300 — which are dropped into Coleman Creek, located between the Civic Center and equine pavilion on the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center grounds. The sponsor of the first turtle to cross the finish line wins the cash.

Sulphur Springs High School AP Biology instructor Chrystal Reneau, who is cosponsoring the trip with her husband, Sean, said that there are still turtles available for $10.

Those interested in sponsoring a ping pong turtle should contact Reneau at the high school at 903-885-2158. The turtle race will kick off at 2 p.m. this Saturday.

The SSHS team that will be making the trek to Costa Rica to work with endangered sea turtles includes Allison Hefner, Emily Bouyear, Brittney Bell, Jenna Davis, Aly Jackson, Olga Martinez, Lauren Longino, Elise Rascoe, Morgan McCormack, Brant Small, Jacob Cooper, Chaz Hinkledey, Kassie Carroll, Tate Rameriz and Dylan Rutherford.

In order to ensure each student is properly outfitted and provided for, they have each been tasked with raising $2,300, which covers all transportation, lodging and food needs. Each student is responsible for raising their own funds, as well as coming up with fund raising ideas and carrying them out. They have held a number of fund raisers throughout the year, including bake sales and candles sales, but donations are still needed. Contact Reneau for more information about donating.

The teens will begin the 10-day trip to the Atenas and Central Valley of Costa Rica by getting to know their guides. They will spend the first and last days in the Central Valley with their tour guide.

They will stop in a cloud forest, eat a typical Costa Rican farm meal, and visit a butterfly garden.

During the two nights of the turtle project, they will patrol the beach in search of nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. They will conduct population studies, tag turtles, transplant eggs to a protected area and release hatchlings into the ocean, provided the turtles choose those two nights for nesting, which is not guaranteed since endangered species nesting is not "scheduled."

During their two days in Parismina, the students will explore canals for wildlife, hike in the forest, and play soccer or volleyball. They may also have opportunities to volunteer to build a hatchery or clean the beach of debris to make it safe for the turtles to nest and return to the sea.

Then, its on to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the southern coast, where students will spend the next two days taking in the beaches, rain forest and cultural heritage. They'll spend a day with the Bribri community in the Talamanca mountains and soak up the local flavor found on the streets of a small Caribbean town.

Nights six and seven will be spent in the northern lowlands of Arenal Canal. They'll stop for lunch and white water rafting on Class II and Class III rapids on the Sarapiqui River en route to Fortuna at the base of the Arenal Volcano.

They'll hike from Fortuna,  swim in fresh pools, visit an organic far and may even see red-hot lava that runs down the sides of the volcano as it erupts several times a day.

Nights eight and nine will be spent on the Monteverde Cloud Forest. During the days, they'll hike the trails of Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, take ziplines between trees and explore the biological diversity on the continental divide.

For more information about the trip, visit the group website at:

http://www.ecoteach.com/2007/sulphur.htm.

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