The Great Turtle Chase

The Great Turtle Chase

Great Turtle Chase

Centennial Park is Fort Myers’ beautiful ten-acre community park located on the scenic banks of the Caloosahatchee River. You can’t miss the entrance. It is demarcated by a red brick bordered sign. At the sign’s base is a white marble sculpture called The Great Turtle Chase. Dedicated in 1990, it was cast by D.J. Wilkins, who former mayor Art Hammel once proclaimed as “the official sculptor of Fort Myers” because of the numerous (23) representational sculpture he has created for the city over the years.

“When we built the Centennial Park sign,” Wilkins reports, “I was looking for a symbol to represent the change of centuries and settled on this. The baby symbolizes the new century coming in and the turtle represents the old, outgoing century.” According to Wilkins, the baby and turtle are made from a composite consisting of 30 percent acrylic-modified polyester resin and 70 percent four-blend ground marble.

Centennial Park’s entrance is located at 2150 Edwards Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Its coordinates are longitude 26d 38′ 42.7128″ N and latitude 81d 52′ 21.4962″ W.

Artist: Don "D.J." Wilkins

Sculptor Don “D.J.” Wilkins was “discovered” by the Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board in 1983, when they engaged him to reassemble the Tootie McGregor Fountain at its current location in the parking lot of the Fort Myers Country Club and conserve The Spirit of Fort Myers, popularly known as Rachel at the Well. In the ensuing two decades, the Beautification Advisory Board and other benefactors commissioned him to create 23 original sculptural installations throughout the city of Fort Myers, including chronologically:

  • The Florida Panthers (1988);
  • Uncommon Friends (1988);
  • The Great Turtle Chase (1990);
  • The Harborside Collection, consisting of busts of Chief Billy Bowlegs, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Thomas Alva Edison, Capt. Francis Asbury Hendry, Connie Mack Sr., James D. Newton and Tootie McGregor Terry (1990);
  • The USCT 2nd Regiment Monument (1998);
  • Wes Nott Memorial (2000);
  • Standing Thomas Edison at the entry to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates (2005);
  • Seated Mina Edison at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates (2009); and
  • Standing Henry Ford at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates (2009).

Wilkins also played an instrumental role in restoring the Felix De Weldon Iwo Jima Memorial in Eco Park on Veteran’s Parkway in Cape Coral.

Don "D.J." Wilkins