South Walton Turtle Watch is experiencing a banner year, with 90 nests so far this season, almost to the record of 98.

"And it's only mid-July!" Turtle Watch head Sharon Maxwell exclaimed.

However, even with a banner year, she is exasperated because in addition to the 90 nests, she has recorded 63 false crawls.

A false crawl is when a sea turtle comes ashore to nest but cannot because of people, lights or an object in her path.

Maxwell said South Walton had a rare green sea turtle come ashore to nest but returned to the Gulf without laying eggs. The next night, Panama City Beach Turtle Watch reported it had a green nest.

"We really are sharing the beach with sea turtles, and people are harassing them on the beach when they (come) ashore to nest," she said.

The stories are mostly told to volunteer turtle watch walkers the morning following incidents.

"We have been trying forever to educate people. We have done everything we can think of. We started the Friends of Turtle Watch who are taking information to rental places and talking to the public, but to no avail," Maxwell said. "People feel they have the right to touch and shine a light on turtles."

Harassing a sea turtle when they come ashore is against the law. Sea turtles are endangered species and are protected.

"I don't know why people don't respect sea turtles here," Maxwell said. "I walked onto the beach on the east coast at Jupiter Beach and two guys sitting on a patio told us that we could not go onto the beach at night unless we had red turtle-safe flashlights. Yet, here, not only are white lights allowed on the beach at night, we still allow bonfires during turtle nesting season. I don't know how to convince the TDC (Tourist Developmnt Council)."

The second thing that is exasperating Maxwell this year are the vendors leaving chairs at the toe of a dune overnight, and the vendor boxes.

"It's legal for them to do that!" she said. "The turtles are coming way up into the dunes this year to nest and they have to navigate around beach chairs to get there. Unfortunately, more and more visitors mean more and more vendors. Walton County is just not stepping up to the plate."

Maxwell said she and her volunteers have asked stores to sell the turtle-safe red flashlights, but to no avail.

"They tell me it's not in their budget or they will take it into consideration," she said.

Currently, only the Blue Giraffe at WaterColor sells the flashlights.

As soon as the busy turtle season starts to slow down, Maxwell plans to put together a PowerPoint presentation for the TDC and other county officials to show them some of the problems she faces.