Flagler County, FL – Dedicating the newest member of the Palm Coast Arts Foundation’s Turtle Trail to one of the world’s peskiest critters, the East Flagler Mosquito Control unveiled “Julius” to the world on Friday.
Nestled next to the de facto trail head at Mala Compra Park airbrushed loggerhead turtle pays homage to the battle of the bug as East Flagler Mosquito Control celebrates their 70th anniversary with the permanent tribute.
Artist Chance Hancotte was on hand to share the inspiration behind his artwork based on decades of research by Thai mosquito researcher Manop Rattanarithikul dubbed ‘The Mosquito Painter’ and wife, expert entomologist Dr. Rampa Rattanarithikul.
“Most importantly what I wanted to do was present something that was very natural looking,” said Hancotte. “I wanted to present something along the style of what he (Manop) does, a style of painting with simple realism and bright, bold colors, and right in middle of his paintings was a mosquito. I kept it simple so it pays respect to this area.”
For Hancotte authenticity was important.
“Mosquito control just knew that I was an artist and being a fourth generation native, that I was very attached to native Florida,” he said. “It was important for them to find somebody that would understand what they were going for to the extent that the mosquito on there is a specific species of mosquito that mosquito control targets right here in these salt marsh areas.”
“It probably about a good month’s work in it and it was a challenge as it was my first time air brushing,” shared Hancotte. “I’m really not a painter. I’ve been a tattoo artist for 22 years.”
East Flagler Mosquito Control takes pride in their eco-friendly methods to prevent the maturation and replication of the illness-carrying insects, and board chairman Mike Martin explained the process to guests of the unveiling.
“Mala Compra, we treat this area quite frequently by drone using a material called BTI. It’s ground up corn cobb, and there’s a bacteria laced on it and so it’s more safer for the environment and the drones are less disturbing for the natural wildlife,” said East Flagler Mosquito Control District spokeswoman Nicole Graves.
There are 48 types of species indigenous to Flagler County, 80 in the state of Florida, 3,600 plus, worldwide. Flagler’s mosquito control district was started in 1952 to specifically combat the Eastern Salt Marsh Mosquito, which has a flight range of 20 miles according to Graves.
Posing briefly for photos, East Flagler Mosquito Control District Commissioner Jules Kwiatkowski was surprised and pleased to learn the installation was named for him.
“I was very excited, I was almost crying,” said Kwiatkowski, whose motto is ‘Mosquitos don’t bite, they suck’.
“I’ve been doing this job for 14 years and I love the people. I’ve been a volunteer fireman for 44 years. I was on leisure services in Palm Coast. I’m willing to help the people as much as I can,” he said, continuing to serve even after the passing of his wife of 63 years, two years ago.
Emceeing the event, Palm Coast Arts Foundation executive director Nancy Crouch says the next turtle will be installed on October 15th at Tomoka Eye in Town Center. Created by blind artist John Bramblitt, it’s been a work in progress. Now completed, it’s ready to become the area’s next addition this fall.
The Turtle Trail, started in 2018, has drawn community-wide support for the endeavor, something Crouch is especially grateful for.
“I’m really proud that the community has come together to support this public art trail,” she said.
“It really does take a community and there are people involved behind the scenes here that really need to be acknowledged like Gibbs Chevrolet for instance. Bob Artz, the general manager of the auto body shop, he comes in on his own time to do the acrylic clear coat for free and this particular time he came in the day before he was leaving on vacation because we had some last minute delays getting the turtle to him. The county’s general services, they stored the turtle for us, picked it up from where it’s being stored and bring it to the site. If it’s on county property they will dig the holes and get it all installed for us. The TDC, tourism office, one of the biggest hits on their website is the trail.”