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‘The turtle is burning kids’: People want newly installed turtle sculpture removed from Beacon Hill playground

Nancy Schön sat on her sculpture "Myrtle the Turtle" earlier this year. The city has received complaints that it gets too hot in the sun.
Nancy Schön sat on her sculpture "Myrtle the Turtle" earlier this year. The city has received complaints that it gets too hot in the sun.(Courtesy of New England Aquarium)

The city is weighing its options following complaints that a new sculpture installed at a Beacon Hill park is absorbing too much heat from the sun, posing a danger to children who want to touch or sit on top of it.

According to at least three separate reports that were lodged through the city’s BOS:311 app since Saturday, the “Myrtle the Turtle” sculpture at Myrtle Street Playground gets too hot and should be removed.

“My 5-year-old son burned his finger on the turtle this morning,” one person wrote in a complaint sent to the city, which included a photograph. “Zoom in you can see the agony in his face. This turtle is a liability on a playground. Please remove.”

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A second grievance showed a temperature scanner hovering above the turtle’s shell. The reading on the device read “133.7” degrees.

“The metal turtle at the Myrtle St Playground was 133 degrees today,” the complaint said. “Kids are getting burned. It is dangerous and should not be in a playground. Please remove the turtle from the playground.”

A complaint was filed Monday that apparently showed two workers wrapping the turtle in blue tape, to ward off anyone who might want to sit on it.

The person who posted the photo of the turtle being cordoned off wrote on the BOS:311 app that “The turtle is burning kids. Please take it out of the play area.”

The issue was first reported by Universal Hub. It was unclear if the same person filed all three of the reports online.

A picture taken Monday by a Globe reporter showed the turtle covered in a blue tarp bound by a rope.

The turtle was wrapped up Monday, after complaints that it’s getting too hot for kids.
The turtle was wrapped up Monday, after complaints that it’s getting too hot for kids.

The four-foot-long, bronze sculpture is a model of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the world’s most endangered turtle. It’s named after not just the street where it can be found — but also the 560-pound green sea turtle, Myrtle, that has lived at the New England Aquarium since 1970.

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The Beacon Hill Garden Club funded the squat statue for its 90th anniversary, the Globe previously reported. It was donated to the city, which installed it last month following a public process, according to Ryan Woods, a spokesman from the Parks and Recreation department.

The sculpture intentionally sits low to the ground, inviting people to climb onto its shell. It was created by Nancy Schön, the artist behind the Boston Public Garden’s iconic “Make Way for Ducklings” sculptures.

Woods said prior to the complaints on BOS:311, the city also received telephone calls about the hot turtle in recent weeks.

He said in response, the Parks Department went out with a heat gun several days in a row and measured the temperature of the sculpture. Workers then put up signs to warn people that surfaces in the park could be hot due to the sun.

Woods said now the city is trying to figure out next steps.

“It could mean either removing the turtle or putting a canopy up,” he said in a telephone interview. “We are weighing our options.”

Schön, who sculpted the turtle, said in a message to the Globe that it’s common for bronze to heat up like this — but that doesn’t mean the city should get rid of the newest addition to the playground.

“I’m really sorry anybody got hurt, but this is something I think can be taken care of very easily and doesn’t have to be such a big deal,” she said. “My apologies to these mothers, but I do think that it’s not appropriate to act so quickly.”

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Schön said she hopes the city will think about putting up some trees or some sort of barricade around the turtle to solve the problem.

“It’s a very fast decision for these mothers to be so angry about something that’s a very common issue,” she said.

By Tuesday afternoon, city officials had closed the online cases filed through BOS:311, and told those who called for the sculpture’s removal that a temporary covering is being placed on the turtle until a more permanent solution is put in place.

“Because of the level of concern expressed by playground users, we have one of our playground design firms currently designing a shade structure for the turtle,” the city wrote in its response.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Globe correspondent Lillian Brown contributed to this report.