American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)



Visual Preference for Stormwater Pond Edge Treatments
Kimberly S. Heiss, Student ASLA
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Faculty Advisors: Les Linscott and Gary Purdum

"Incredibly useful. The secondary level of questioning was particularly interesting. A clean process, evaluation, and presentation of the research. It would be interesting to test the ideas and questions in another geographic location."

— 2007 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement
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 pond stakeholders.

Newer, suburban, single-family residential subdivisions.

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 edge treatments.

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.

Definitions –
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.

The Interventions
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.

Intervention Results
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 increase.

Intervention Summary
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 to $845,000.
$36,019.91 was the average price participants were willing to pay based on the 'Favorite View’ question. The range was from 0-$300,000.
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).


(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
(Photo by Kim Heiss)
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