fb-pixel

A bronze turtle sculpture at a popular Beacon Hill playground is being moved to a shadier spot where children won’t climb on it, after controversy erupted this summer when parents complained to the city that it became dangerously hot due to the sun.

Ryan Woods, commissioner of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said Myrtle Street Playground, where the “Myrtle the Turtle” statue is located, will remain closed through Labor Day as crews dig up the artwork and lift it into a garden area at the park that will eventually be fenced off.

“It will be an element in the garden, instead of a playground structure,” he said. The work, which began Monday morning and is being privately funded, “is going to take the playground off-line for the week.”

Advertisement



The 4-foot sculpture is of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. It was created by Nancy Schön, the famed artist behind iconic works like the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues in the Public Garden, and the “Tortoise and the Hare” in Copley Square.

Schön, who unveiled the sculpture in May, objected to the move, calling the complaints by parents “ludicrous.”

“This whole thing was a knee-jerk reaction to pandering to a minority of interests,” she said.

The statue is named after both the park and the popular green turtle, “Myrtle,” who has long lived at the New England Aquarium. It was a gift from the Beacon Hill Garden Club, which raised funds to pay for it to celebrate the group’s 90th anniversary.

The turtle, which sits low to the ground so children can climb on its shell, was first installed in the middle of the playground in May. Soon after, it became the center of a heated debate in the tony neighborhood.

Advertisement



In June, angry parents lodged complaints on the city’s BOS:311 app claiming the turtle absorbed too much heat from the sun, posing a risk to children who touched it.

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

Another person wrote to officials that his or her “5-year-old son burned his finger on the turtle this morning.”

“This turtle is a liability on a playground. Please remove,” the person added.

Parks officials told the Globe in June that they had also received telephone calls about the temperature of the turtle, prompting employees to go out with heat guns to measure it. Eventually, signs warning people that surfaces in the park could get hot were put up nearby.

At one point, two workers were seen wrapping the turtle in blue tape, to ward off children. And later, the turtle was covered in a blue tarp bound by a rope, giving it an eerie look as though it were placed in a body bag.

The potential for playground equipment to get dangerously hot is a known problem, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

For a time, officials from the parks department were trying to figure out next steps for the sculpture, including installing a canopy over it. After several meetings with the Beacon Hill Garden Club, and members of the Friends of the Myrtle Street Playground, it was decided that the turtle could stay at the playground — but in an area safer for visitors.

Advertisement



Woods, the parks commissioner, said he was pleased that those involved with the turtle’s presence came to a consensus on the contentious issue.

“Our job as the city is to work with residents to find new solutions,” he said.

While the statue will remain in the park, Schön, the artist, was disappointed children won’t be able to interact with it in the same way. Schön said she has sculptures all over the world that people climb on, and never get hurt. This is the first time that she has ever heard complaints that a child was burned on any of them.

“They were going to take the sculpture away because one kid hurt his little finger?” she asked. “It’s a very sad commentary that we have to deal with this kind of thing, when there are people who should be worrying about guns and people being killed rather than kids being burnt by a beautiful sculpture.”

She said some parents involved “caused a lot of trouble and it was totally unnecessary” — not to mention costly.

“We had a horror show just because of their silliness,” she added.

Moving forward, Schön hopes the sculpture, in its new location, “will give thousands of kids a lot of joy in the future.”

“It’s just awful that we might have deprived them of having all this fun,” she added.

Advertisement



Worker Nich Collito of Dorchester readies the sculpture to be moved.
Worker Nich Collito of Dorchester readies the sculpture to be moved. The Boston Globe

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com.