South Lake Howard Park
One Water Project Manager, City of Winter Haven
Open Space, Park, Wetland
City of Winter Havenhttps://www.mywinterhaven.com/
Can you tell us a little about the background of the project?
South Lake Howard Nature Park was the City’s first significant green infrastructure/multiple benefit project constructed in April 2001. The site was a low-lying pasture that intersected where a large storm drain flowed into Lake Howard, which is a part of the City’s iconic Chain of Lakes. It was fairly obvious that we could use the site to manage stormwater. Lake Howard Nature Park has always been more than just a stormwater pond. When we designed it, we purposely made the pond large enough to accommodate trails. Making the pond look and function naturally was a primary goal. The popularity of South Lake Howard Nature Park has been amazing. I was just there this morning and some days you can’t find a parking place.
What does stormwater management look like in your community?
In Winter Haven, we learned that water quality isn’t as driven as much by stormwater management as we thought. It’s primarily driven by aquatic plants and hydrology. Using a natural systems approach is the only way to manage both sustainably.
Stormwater infrastructure has bigger role to play than people think. When you think about water and lakes and natural systems, how we manage water that comes off the land and what we do with it is very important. How to connect all aspects of water through the projects we do is a primary goal. Water is one integrated system and this is the future of our quality of life. If we can marry stormwater management with water supply on a watershed scale and communities worked together, we will have better results.
Lake Howard Nature Park is now one of 5 stormwater nature parks in Winter Haven, with the newest located at Lake Conine. Winter Haven is known as the Chain of Lakes City and values an outdoor lifestyle. The nature parks enhance both.
What else would you like to share about GSI in your community?
We’ve also started building rain gardens in places like downtown where the primary goal in managing stormwater is recharging the groundwater system. Raingardens enhance the visual appeal of downtown and also provide a valuable water resource benefit. Winter Haven now has almost 50 rain gardens in the downtown area. These gardens take all the stormwater that would go into drains and put it back into the groundwater system. Because of this, we have seen an 80% reduction in stormwater downtown. The cost benefit is extraordinary. What we’ve learned from these projects is that we have such a special connection with water in Winter Haven. Taking care of every drop of water that lands in our community and connecting community goals with water as the Chain of Lakes City helps us meet most of our community goals.