Situation/Problem Statement and Objectives: Seminole county has many waterbodies that are labeled “impaired’ for nutrients. The nutrients arise from a variety of sources but can be attributed to a lack of best management practices in the home landscape. Homeowners play an integral role in how they or their hired professionals plant, fertilize and maintain their yards. However, reaching Home Owners Associations (HOA’s) can be difficult because they have high turn-over, defer to a hired manager and/or do not advertise direct contact information.
Education Methods/Procedure/Approach: In the beginning of implementing the HOA outreach efforts we used basic Florida Friendly terminology but found that we were not getting invites to monthly or annual meetings. We soon realized the messaging and the key words used when approaching HOA’s had to be relevant and directly imply benefit to their entity. As we changed the messaging to include phrases like “Stormwater Pond Maintenance”, “Landscape Maintenance” and “Property Values” we were invited to present at their meetings.
Results/Findings/Product: November 2018-March 2019 we were able to complete 9 presentations at various HOA’s throughout Seminole County. Behavior change takes time with HOA’s; however, we have already seen the implementation of some of the Florida Friendly Principles among contacts, most notably regarding changes in Stormwater Pond Maintenance including canceling routine herbicide treatment on the banks of the ponds, reducing erosion by vegetating and moving towards the implementation of a 15-foot low maintenance zone. We have made promising contacts and expect to continue to collaborate with these communities.
Conclusion: Given that Home Owners Associations play such an integral role in the preservation of water quality byway of proper best management practices it is imperative to be able to work with them and educate them about proper techniques. As we begin our outreach efforts with HOA’s it is important to use terminology that they resonate with so they will be likely to collaborate. Working with them to enhance their landscapes will foster a reduction in the nutrient impacts on our lakes, rivers and streams—a necessary resource that all depend upon.