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storm drain to detention pondToday, stormwater management--including detention pond design--is one of the biggest concerns for commercial property owners and managers when developing and maintaining their properties in metro-Atlanta.

Stormwater has to be kept on site for a period of time during a storm event based on developing and engineering the site. Primarily there are two ways in which commercial properties can handle stormwater on site:

  1. Store the stormwater in an above ground detention pond (also referred to as a detention basin).
  2. Store the stormwater in an underground channel system.

Stormwater management via above ground detention basins is the most cost effective approach. These detention basins are typically located in the lowest topographic areas of the commercial site.  While these above ground detention basins are the most common, they also happen to be the least desirable to the eye.

So what happens when detention basins need to be located in the front of the property or in the only green space on the property? Or anywhere clients and buyers see them? Fortunately for commercial property owners and managers in Atlanta, there are suitable solutions. Here are five ways to beautify a detention pond on a commercial property.

#1: Shape the detention pond in a natural way

If this is new construction, the best way to set the ground work for a great detention basin is to shape the basin in a natural way working with the natural flow of the land instead of "engineering" it.

Sharp-angled sloped detention basins can look unnatural to the surrounding areas and create an eyesore on the landscape. To create a natural shape, have a professional landscape architect review the engineered plans to soften the feel of the detention basin and integrate the grades into the surrounding topography.

#2: Plant indigenous vegetation around the detention pond

detention pond and plantings on commercial propertyIf the idea is to blend detention basins into the surrounding landscape in order to bring less attention to them, then selecting indigenous plant material is the best way to handle this.

Plant these materials along the detention basin's edge inside and outside the fenced area.  Also allow the fence line to flow with the topography, even dropping below the line of vision in certain parts. This will help make the area less detectable. Seeing a straight, engineered fence line is not desirable in these cases.

#3: Plant a mixture of adaptive evergreens and deciduous plants

A mix of adaptive evergreens and deciduous plants will create visual interest with contrasting foliage colors, textures, and flowers. (Adaptive plants are natives or indigenous plants that are hardy for our zone here in Atlanta.

#4: Place a few large trees along the detention basin edge

Placing trees around the perimeter of a detention pond will provide contrast and interest. The trees break up the ground plane and also aid in the absorption of standing water.

The moist microclimate of the detention pond also provides the opportunity to use unique trees like Bald Cypress, Dawn Redwood, and Red Maple, all of which have fabulous autumn color here in Atlanta.

#5: Be creative; use these areas as an amenity

When designed right a detention pond on your commercial property can become an amenity versus an eyesore.

With a little effort on the front end, these structures can be engineered “wet”, which means they have the appearance of a beautifully landscaped pond versus an obvious stormwater management structure.

Now what would your clients and tenants rather have, a boring stormwater management structure or a beautifully landscaped pond? I think we all know the answer to that. If your property's detention pond needs a makeover, contact our experts here at HighGrove Partners.

  need an irrigation and stormwater management plan? download our free guide.  

This post was written by Erik Jarkins, HighGrove Partners' Director of Design and Landscape Architecture.

image credits: eutrophication&hypoxia