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Diggin' Florida Dirt: Has your pond become a dirty word?

Highland Lakes is a Scots-inspired community of wee hills and lochs and street names like McGregor Drive. It should more rightfully be called Highland Stormwater Ponds, Don Mariani jokes.

The 684-acre neighborhood for ages 55-plus sidles up to Lake Tarpon and boasts 11 stormwater retention ponds — glorified drainage ditches that look like neatly manicured golf course water hazards.

Residents love the views they provide, but until last spring, no one made an effort to properly maintain them, says Don, a homeowners association officer and past president of the Highland Lakes Garden Club.

They didn't know they needed to.

Then newcomer Anna Marchand, a master gardener from New Hampshire, started asking about all the green stuff floating in Stirling Pond, behind her home. (It was algae.) And what, exactly, was that landscaping guy spraying in the water? (Herbicide perhaps?)

Her questions led Highland Lakes to team with Pinellas County's new Adopt-a-Pond program. Together, they assessed the pond's health, mapped a five-year improvement plan, and began implementing it in April.

Their work has already transformed Stirling, and makeovers have begun on three more ponds.