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Shirley West honored as Citizen of the Year

By By Adrienne McKenzie
What started as a dream for Shirley West turned into reality when Turtle Point Environmental Science Center opened in 1999.
West’s vision for Turtle Point has helped put Escambia County on the map. Her passion for educating young and old alike about nature is what she is known for. She was awarded for that passion Thursday night as she was named Atmore’s 2007 Citizen of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce’s 62nd Annual Meeting.
West did not know she was the Citizen of the Year award recipient until “Discovering Alabama,” a TV show aired on PBS, creator Doug Phillips walked into the meeting to introduce her.
West is the founder of Turtle Point Environmental Science Center in Flomaton. The idea for the project began in 1997. In 1998 the grants were written, the complex was built and Turtle Point opened its doors in 1999.
Prior to the inception of Turtle Point, West taught gifted students in the Escambia County school system.
West said she started with no money to build the facility, but now it’s insured for more than $1 million dollars. People travel from all across the state of Alabama to visit Turtle Point.
West does not take all the credit for the success of Turtle Point.
West retired during the summer of 2007, but hopes to continue her work in conservation.
One of the many programs Turtle Point is responsible for and West is proud of is “Discovering Alabama in Your Own Backyard.” This program helps teach parents how to get their children involved in nature and to teach them to love and preserve their environment, she said.
Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce executive director said what West has done for Escambia County is “extraordinary.”
Turtle Point has received many awards throughout the years including Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award-the Conservation Organization of the Year 2005, Legacy’s Environmental Organization of the Year Award 1999 and several Environmental Education Association of Alabama’s Best Environmental Education Program awards.
West is the recipient of several personal awards also, including Legacy’s Environmental Educator of the Year 1998, Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award-the Conservation Educator of the Year 2001, 2001 Rotarian Service Above Self Award and Legacy’s Education Committee Member of the Year 2003.
All of West’s achievements, both personal and professional, are what made her stand out and is why she was named Atmore’s Citizen of the Year 2007.
West’s husband, along with many other family members, were on hand Thursday as she accepted the award.