This study seeks to address a general lack
of aesthetics and multifunctionality in the typical
stormwater retention pond. Information was sought to
identify what the public prefers and from those findings,
design a stormwater retention pond that performs as
an aesthetically pleasing, wildlife habitat promoting,
water quality improving, natural-area site amenity,
that is also profitable for developers. In otherwords,
to develop a win-win solution for stormwater retention
Newer, suburban, single-family residential
Method of Inquiry
Qualitative: Three case studies of local, multifunctional
stormwater retention ponds.
Quantitative: A visual preference survey.
The survey: 204 participants rated 27
scenes of varying types of retention pond edge treatments.
The varying edge treatments presented in the survey
incur different water quality, wildlife habitat, and
aesthetic impacts. The results of the survey reveal
that participants feel strongly about retention pond
What are the participant’s preferences
for stormwater pond edge treatments?
Quantitative Research Criteria
2 Parameter Study-
Parameter 1: marginal shoreline fringe plantings, and
Parameter 2: basin structure as it affects aquatic plants
8 categories of edge treatments –
Represented by black and white photographic
scenes depicting a range of treatments, from the most
manicured to the most naturalized, for participants
to rate on a scale of 1 to 5. Where, 1 = “do not
like it at all” and 5 = “like it very much.”
Representation of parameters –
Parameter 1) shoreline fringe treatments are
indicated by varying widths and densities of vegetation
on the pond bank; and 2) Basin structure is indicated
by the amount and density of aquatic vegetation visible
in the water.
Manicured is mowed lawn to waters edge.
Naturalized is completely unmaintained shoreline vegetation
and dense aquatic vegetation.
Factor Analysis Results
Principal axis factor analysis with Varimax
rotation was used to identify strongly correlated scenes,
based on ratings, into groups for classification. The
resulting three factor groups, comprising 22 of the
27 scenes, were used to understand how participants
categorized the scenes.
Which factor group was most preferred?
Moderate was preferred by an average difference of .95
over highly naturalized, and .70 over manicured.
Favorite View Results
77 participants ranked the View from House
A (naturalized) as their favorite.
75 participants ranked the View from House B (moderate)
as their favorite.
45 participants ranked the View from House C (manicured)
as their favorite.
Price for Favorite Views
The range of participant’s home prices
was from below $100,000 up to $845,000. The average
home price was $191,605.15. The price range with the
greatest number of participants was $130,000 to $200,000.
The average price participants were willing
to pay for their favorite view was $36,019.91.
Half of the surveys distributed contained Intervention
A, and the other half contained Intervention B, the
interventions were placed at the end of the survey package
for comparison with the participant’s previous
ratings. The hypothesis was that reading the following
intervention texts would raise the participant’s
preference ratings for the more naturalized scenes shown
on the next page.
Intervention A, titled, “Why
shallow-sloping retention ponds are important for wading
birds” was a ½ page text about the
benefits of creating a shallow aquatic plant zone for
wading birds to forage in, and
Intervention B, titleed, “Where will the wildlife
live?” was a ½ page text about the
benefits of terrestrial vegetation for wildlife habitat.
The same 4 scenes were used in both Interventions.
When the changes were compared to the participant’s
previous ranking of “Favorite View” it was
found that the more a participant preferred the moderate
category, the more their preference increased for the
naturalized scene after reading the intervention. The
participants who already liked the natural scenes liked
them even more after reading the intervention. The participants
who preferred the manicured scenes, did not have increased
preference for the natural scene after reading the intervention.
However, their preference for the moderate scenes did
Environmental interpretation influenced 5 out
of 8 preference ratings (63% effective).
‘Importance of Access to Natural Area’ Question
This survey question gave participants a scale
of 1-5 to rate their feeling about “importance
of access to a natural area.” Where, 1 = not important
at all, and 5 = very important.
Interestingly, ‘importance of access
to a natural area’ was 'important' to 'very important'
for participants in all home price ranges, except for
the people in the $251,000 to $300,000 range. This finding
would make for interesting future research.
The Sample Population
204 pariticpants (204 respondents/513 surveys
distributed = 40% response rate).
76.5% live in single family homes.
82.4% own their own house.
$191,000 was the median home price. The range was $25,000
$36,019.91 was the average price participants were willing
to pay based on the 'Favorite View’ question. The range was from
58.3% live in suburban Gainesville, Florida.
35.3% live in downtown Gainesville, Florida.
4.4% live in rural Putnam or Hamilton Counties in Florida.
65% consider ‘access to a natural area’
as important to very important.
72% did not belong to any nature conservation organizations.
Theoretical Perspective of Study
Joan Iverson Nassuaer’s, “Messy Ecosystems,
Orderly Frames” puts forth the idea that people
may learn to appreciate the ‘look’ of a
truly functional (messy) ecosystem, if it is ‘framed’
in a culturally acceptable landscape (mowed lawn grass,
or flower borders for instance). Nassauer’s ‘cues
to care’ are visual ‘frames’ that
signal human intent and care (design and maintenance)
in a landscape (Landscape Journal, Fall 1995, vol. 14,
no. 2, p 161-170).