LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch is taking its stormwater ponds more seriously, and with good reason.
A 2013 survey conducted by the University of Florida found most responding residents had no idea what a stormwater pond was and knew nothing about how to maintain them.
In order to bring residents up to speed, the Protect Our Ponds Task Force was formed over the summer and is leaning heavily on community homeowner associations to get the word out.
At its third meeting held Monday evening at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, residents and representatives of the local Anglers Club called on Ryan Heise, Lakewood Ranch operations director, and Emily Ott, University of Florida task force project coordinator, to make presentations to HOA boards this week.
The first will be the Greenbrook Village Association on Wednesday evening followed by one at the Country Club/Edgewater Village Association on Thursday night.
Following the presentations, the task force plans to ask HOAs to include communication materials in the 2015 digital homeowner manuals distributed in January to offer actions residents can take to improve the health of neighborhood ponds.
"The points we need to make are why do we need this information? Why are ponds so important? What are the benefits of having clean ponds? The HOA boardmembers should have some
understanding of this and what we need to do to keep our ponds in good condition," said task force member Joe Sidiski, chairman of Greenbrook's Community Development District 4 and treasurer of the Greenbrook Village Association. The timing is critical since 62 percent of Lakewood Ranch residents live next to ponds and 78 percent of homeowners employ private landscapers. The seasonal Manatee County ban on fertilizers containing nitrogen ended in September and liquid fertilizer is banned year-round from Lakewood Ranch.
Jeannette Wirz, president of the Lakewood Ranch Anglers Club, suggested the HOA manuals contain a list of landscapers certified by Manatee County, which the task force agreed could be added to the manual in the form of a link to the county website. The task force also noted education is needed to make residents aware of the importance of keeping storm drains clean and free of yard and pet waste and chemicals since stormwater runoff can pollute ponds, leading to algae blooms, fish kills and degraded water.
"We danced around the idea that water from stormwater ponds eventually becomes drinking water," Sidiski said. "We don't have to go into the chemistry of it. Just an indication that there are benefits to not adversely impacting our ponds."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.