With stormwater the source of 65% of the excess nutrients in Sarasota Bay and most of our local stormwater ponds functioning at only 40% to 60% efficiency, START began a Healthy Pond Program in 2021 with funding from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation in Sarasota County to help neighborhoods clean up ponds that look like the one shown above. By the end of the planting season in 2021, START had worked with the Sarasota County Nest program to advise nine different neighborhood communities on how to enhance the appearance and efficiency of their stormwater ponds and provide funding to help cover the cost of the aquatic plants necessary for a successful pond enhancement program.
During the same period, START used a Chiles-Moore grant to help four neighborhood communities in Manatee County improve their ailing stormwater ponds with counselling and funding for aquatic plant stock.
The success of these two programs led to START receiving a major three-year grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to expand this important water quality program. This funding created the Healthy Pond Collaborative, administered by START and assisted in field operations by the Sarasota County NEST program and the University of Florida IFAS Sarasota Extension with creative and marketing assistance from the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida. This additional funding enabled the Healthy Pond Collaborative to reach more communities with advice and funding to help them develop and sustain an ongoing maintenance program for the health of their stormwater ponds.
The end result of a successful pond maintenance program is a healthy stormwater pond that looks like the one shown in the above picture. This is achieved through the use of the following four basic elements of healthy pond maintenance:
- The use of best irrigation and fertilizer practices in the land area around the pond
- The creation of a “No Mow Zone” around the perimeter of the of the pond that is at least 8 inches to 12 inches high and at least 3 feet wide
- The use of aquatic plants on at least 30% to 50% of the Littoral Shelf or shallow area of the pond
- The minimal use of herbicide sprays (Copper Sulfate) in and around the pond
The best irrigation and fertilizer practices on the land area around the pond reduces the amount of excess water and nutrients that enter the pond that foster unsightly algal growth. The “No Mow Zone” keeps heavy lawnmowers off the pond bank that weaken it and cause damaging erosion. The aquatic plants in the littoral zone crowd out algae and also help protect the pond bank from erosion from wind and waves.
In 2022, the Healthy Pond Collaborative visited over thirty communities with advice about improving the health of their stormwater ponds and provided funding for aquatic plants that created over 4.3 miles of new pond shoreline in Sarasota County and 2.9 miles in Manatee County. We will substantially increase those numbers in 2023. If you need help with your ailing stormwater ponds, contact Sandy Gilbert with START at firstname.lastname@example.org.