Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) Launches Regional Healthy Ponds Collaborative

Article authored by:

Sandy Gilbert - LAI At-Large Member

LAI At-Large member Sandy Gilbert retired to Sarasota, FL in 2000 after thirty-five years in the publishing business with executive positions with TIME and Smithsonian Magazines Sandy serves as Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) Chair and helps to find solutions to mitigate its harmful effects on the environment and the economy. Some of the START endeavors accomplished under Sandy’s aegis include the PBS TV documentary film “Guardians of The Gulf”, the distribution of PSAs to local TV stations alerting the public to impending red tide blooms, and the fostering of the award-winning Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle and Renewal Program (GCORR) in Manatee County. Sandy was a founding member of the Sarasota Bay Watch, and a contributing partner in their ongoing effort to seed clams in Sarasota Bay.

Building on a successful pilot program that helped about a dozen Sarasota County communities bolster (and beautify) their stormwater retention ponds, Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) secured a $250,000 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to develop a regional “Healthy Pond Collaborative” initiative. Lai at-large member Sandy Gilbert is START Chairman of the Board.

The effort officially kicked off at a press conference hosted at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021.

According to START, stormwater contributes 65% of the nitrogen in Sarasota Bay, which feeds red tide and causes other damage to water quality and wildlife. You may call them lakes, but the more than 6,000 bodies of water in Sarasota County are all manmade and only operate at 40% to 60% efficiency in removing the excess nutrients that contribute to water pollution.

This new collaborative will help more neighborhoods upgrade their ponds and cost-share the improvements. It also will create and distribute a step-by-step pond enhancement guide, host educational focus groups, and do follow-up monitoring of pond enhancements.

This unique effort and collaboration will help establish state-wide and national models that can be recreated in other communities.

Partners include START, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Sarasota County’s Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team, the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, and the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida. The work was in part inspired by Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Water Quality Playbook.

Press-Conference Program:

  • Welcome and impetus
    Teri A Hansen, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation
  • Overview of the program and partners
    Sandy Gilbert, START
  • The science behind stormwater pond management
    Abbey Tyrna, Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension
  • Q & A: Healthy Pond Collaborative

About Solutions to Avoid Red Tide
START is a 501(c)3 non-profit grass roots organization founded in 1996 on Longboat Key by retired General Jim Patterson and a few other concerned citizens in response to a devastating ten-month long red tide bloom that ravaged a wide area along the West Coast of Florida. START’s name is an out-growth of this trying experience and is derived from the phrase “Solutions To Avoid Red Tide”. Ever since then, START has been in the forefront in securing funding to reduce excess nutrients in our coastal waters and increase public awareness about the importance of preserving our marine environment.

About Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation
The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida. Barancik Foundation creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond in the areas of education, humanitarian causes, arts and culture, the environment, and medical research. For more information, visit

Algal blooms in contaminated retention ponds are common and release toxins into the local waterways that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

Remediated ponds with ample shoreline foliage are healthy environments that support local wildlife. Image from the retention at LAI at-large member Charles Reith’s Mira Lago home and neighborhood.

LAI At-Large Member and START Chair Sandy Gilbert speaks at the Regional Healthy Ponds Collaborative press conference hosted at Selby Gardens on Sarasota Bay.
Pictured from left to right, Sandy is accompanied by Abbey Tyrna, Ph.D, Water Resources Extension Agent with the University of Florida Extension and Sustainability,
Jennifer Shafer, Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director of the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, and Mollie Holland,
Sarasota County Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team Program Coordinator, Public Works – Stormwater.

Photo credits:
Press conference image - Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation
Remediated pond image - Charles Reith



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