START is pleased to offer the following report about The Meadows community’s exemplary water quality work with their stormwater ponds.
The Meadows is a community of 3,560 condominiums, villas and single-family homes built during the period from 1974 to 1995, in the northeast corner of Sarasota County bordered by 17th Street and Honore Avenue.
The pond enhancement work has been underway since 2018, through the community’s Water and Wildlife Committee (WWC) under the auspices of founding Chairman Dr. Robert Hueter. The objectives of the WWC include:
* Oversee The Meadows’ 85 ponds and 25 miles of shoreline in terms of water quality, aquatic and shoreline vegetation and wildlife, seeking to optimize the ponds’ ecological functions in balance with their engineering functions of water retention and drainage
* Lead activities to preserve and improve the natural ecology of these water features and surrounding habitats including enhancement of water quality, management of aquatic landscapes and conservation of wildlife
* Educate Meadows residents and visitors about the importance and functioning of water features and wildlife within the community
Dr. Hueter likes to say the WWC’s mission is to “eco-beautify” The Meadows’ water features. You won’t find the term in the dictionary, but everyone knows that he means preserving the ecological integrity of the ponds and water features, while making The Meadows community even more beautiful and appealing.
Since its inception, the WWC has effectively monitored the health of the community’s ponds and lakes and organized a number of volunteer planting events that help protect the pond banks from erosion, filter nutrients from the water, and provide habitat for wildlife. The latest planting event on May 20th involved 20 volunteers who worked for nearly four hours to plant 1,185 aquatic plants in five different ponds. START provided a grant to help cover the cost of the native plant stock that included bullrush, yellow canna, pickerelweed, spike rush and swamp hibiscus.
In addition to the pond plantings the WCC has also accomplished the following:
* Formed an Alligator Panel that created new guidelines to deal with alligator nuisance complaints, to limit removals and educate residents about the importance of alligators
* Joined the Florida LAKEWATCH Program with a team of volunteers working with researchers from the University of Florida to collect water samples as part of a statewide effort to increase understanding of Florida water bodies
* Enhanced The Meadows’ reputation in Sarasota County environmental affairs by meeting and sharing experiences with county officials and neighboring communities that have also taken leadership roles in water quality and wildlife issues
* Won a $2,985 grant from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program for “environmental improvement of waterways and wildlife habitat”
* Took a lead role in gaining nearly 100% commitment from the 52 Meadows’ resident associations to follow a new policy of maintaining Low Maintenance Zones (LMZs)–officially adopted by the Board of the Meadows Community Association–consisting of borders at least three feet wide and 10-12 inches high around the shorelines of all water features to the fullest extent possible
* Educated residents on water and wildlife issues through informational articles on pond water quality, the importance of aquatic plants, alligators and other environmental topics in The Meadoword, the community’s monthly newsletter
The WWC’s multi-faceted environmental work quickly brought recognition to The Meadows in November of 2018, when the community was given the Keep Sarasota County Beautiful Award by Sarasota County.
Other communities interested in working with START on a community water quality education program and applying for grant funding to help cover the cost of a pond enrichment program should contact Sandy Gilbert at email@example.com.
Photo a pond at the Meadows