4 steps to a healthier shoreline

What you can do to give your shoreline a good boost

By Steve StocktonSteve Stockton

Healthier shoreline

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1. Rebuild the buffer zone

Many cottage waterfronts have been stripped of the native shrubs, trees, grasses, and other plants that usually grow along an undeveloped shoreline. And that’s a big loss because this buffer zone traps harmful runoff in its roots and decomposing leaves, helps to prevent erosion, and is a rich habitat for shore-dwelling species vital to a healthy aquatic ecosystem. One of the best things you can do for your lake is replant the buffer, with species native to your cottage area. Ideally, it should be as wide as your waterfront and as deep as 30 metres, but if that sounds too daunting, start small with a strip that’s a few metres deep and enlarge it over a few years. Even a passive approach – stopping the lawn-cutting and letting native plants regenerate – can work wonders.

2. Let sleeping logs lie

Driftwood and fallen trees at the shoreline provide hiding places, feeding grounds, and spawning areas for lots of aquatic creatures, such as fish, frogs, and salamanders. They can also act as a breakwater to prevent erosion. So leave the “clutter” where it is. Or, if your waterfront is devoid of woody debris, install a log in the water yourself; be sure to anchor it so it doesn’t create a boating hazard and check with your local Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to see if permits are required.

3. Get over that waterweed phobia

Okay, so the kids squeal when they step in the shallows and feel weedy tentacles. Don’t strip the entire waterfront of its aquatic vegetation, which holds sediment in place and provides critical food and shelter for many water dwellers, from bass to water striders. Instead, designate a small activity area for swimming, preferably less than two metres wide, and contact your local MNR for a work permit before you remove anyamount of aquatic vegetation. Easier still, put a ladder at the end of your dock and skip the shallows entirely.

4. Opt for a low-impact dock

If you’re ready for a new dock, choose a floating, pipe, or a cantilever dock, which cause much less disturbance to lakebed habitat and life than the traditional crib dock. Ideally, choose a design that minimizes modifications to the shoreline.

This article was originally published on April 12, 2007

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