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Six-year-old Lily Wright dances with father, Ted, in Edgemont Memorial Park. KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR ISLAND

By KATE ALBRIGHT
For Montclair Local

On May 20, a small island appeared on the east side of the pond at Edgemont Memorial Park. Built from wood scraps with a flag announcing its name, Turtle Island.

It’s become a favorite spot for both turtles and passers-by. We tracked down the creators, dad Ted Wright and his 6-year-old daughter, Lily. 

It only took the turtles about two hours to discover the island after Ted and Lily launched it, said Ted, an urban planner who told us about the project. The turtles that have made the pond their home appear to be red-eared sliders.  

Why did you decide to make Turtle Island? 

There was a bunch of nasty stuff accumulating [in the pond], but we had always seen the turtles there, climbing onto wood. It wasn’t bad trash, but basically the city came by about a month ago and cleaned up … They took out all the debris. So then the turtles didn’t have anywhere to hang out on. So I was just thinking, what can we do with all of this wood [left over from a neighbor’s construction project]? I was like, if you keep it real simple, Lily will be able to help me. And she did. She did a lot of the nails. She hit a lot of the nails for me. She came up with the idea of a flag. 

How is it anchored?

Lily found me a big rock, and we found some fishing wire in the house from a fishing line, and we wrapped it around the stone and then we pushed it out to sea. And we threw the rock out after it.

What was the hardest thing about making the island? 

Making the stairs. Lily really helped me come up with that. She was really concerned about the turtles being able to climb onto it. 

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The turtles’ taking to the island must have been satisfying. 

Oh my God, it was crazy. I was so happy about it. I was telling everybody. It’s like my biggest victory … We all go for these runs and try to get out of the house, as much as you love your kids and like to be around them… You know, we can’t go out to dinner anymore. Date nights to the wind. At least you can go watch some turtles across the street.

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Turtles enjoy the day on their island. KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

How many turtles have been spotted at once on the island so far?

Lily said she saw six. This is far from my expertise, but they’re cold-blooded. I remember that. And so they hang out on this side of the park because the exposure is so good. I had no idea there were that many, I had not seen anything near six turtles in this park before. 

Anything you learned through this project and being home during the pandemic?

One of the coolest parts about being home right now is that you are teaching your kids actual life skills, like hammering and nails. 

It’s so much fun. Honestly — sorry, I’m going to nerd out for a second here, but I’ve never been as close to my family as I am right now. Lily talks about how we wake up at the same time in the morning, and that’s just kind of amazing to me… There’s a connection there, daughter/father relationship that I’d never seen before. Turtle Island is an example of that. We do go across the street and we watch it. Like if we’re eating our breakfast, or more like lunch, we would go over and we would just sit there and watch it and like she would lean on me. There’s a lot of bonding happening right now.