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Naturalizing Detention Basins: Increasing Biodiversity in Our Neighborhoods

Updated: May 26, 2023

naturalized detention basin

Suburban neighborhoods, with their manicured lawns and developed landscapes, have often been associated with a loss of biodiversity. However, there are opportunities to reverse this trend and support healthy ecosystems right within our communities. One low-hanging fruit in this endeavor is the naturalization of detention basins found in many suburban areas. These basins, typically designed for stormwater management, can be transformed to both improve stormwater management while also being transformed into flourishing habitats for wildlife and providing a range of benefits for both the environment and residents.

The Benefits of Naturalizing Detention Basins

Increased Biodiversity

By transforming detention basins into natural habitats, we can create opportunities for a diverse range of plant and animal species to thrive. This enhances the local ecosystem, promotes pollination, and supports wildlife such as birds, butterflies, and amphibians.

Stormwater Management

Naturalized basins can still serve their primary purpose of managing stormwater runoff while offering additional benefits. Native plants and grasses in these basins help absorb and filter water, reducing the risk of flooding and improving water quality.

Cost Savings

Maintaining a naturalized detention basin can result in long-term cost savings compared to traditional maintenance practices, such as mowing and chemical treatments. Native vegetation requires less maintenance, reduces the need for irrigation, and provides erosion control. As an example, Cherry Hill township in New Jersey naturalized five detention basins and they estimate they are saving $20,000/year on mowing and maintenance costs. The Hilltop Conservancy put out a proposal in 2013 to naturalize their detention bason and estimated a one-time $3,000 cost to do so, would save them $2,400 annually in mowing, having the project pay for itself in 1.25 years.


The below list is intended to grow overtime and if people have additional resources to provide, please submit and it will be added:


Supplemental Reading

Lawns into Meadows is an excellent book that gives great advice on converting any lawn or large turf grass area in to a thriving and biodiverse meadow. Click here or on the image to go to the publisher's website to learn more.


(Note: When implementing naturalization projects, it is important to consider local regulations, consult with experts, and involve the community in the planning and maintenance process.)

We invite you to explore this unique possibility of naturalizing detention basins to create a thriving, biodiverse landscapes in a largely underutilized area of your neighborhood. This can benefit not only the environment and local landscape within the community, but also positively impact the P&L of your HOA.

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