Waterfront landscaping—many approaches to protecting our lake

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Over the past several years, a number of articles in our newsletter have emphasized the importance of “Lake Friendly” landscapes along the water’s edge and the incorporation of protective greenbelt areas.

One of the main contributors to pollution in our lake is run off entering from waterfront properties carrying pesticides, fertilizer, pet waste, septic leakage and other pollutants.

We stress the importance of maintaining or creating natural landscapes and greenbelt areas along the shoreline to filter run off before it reaches the water.


We are fortunate that much of our lake still has a natural shoreline. This includes areas of extensive natural vegetation that are left intact or restored by property owners.

Unfortunately, much of this natural protective barrier is often eliminated during development.

The effect can be detrimental and frequently has a negative unseen impact on the very waters the property owner and family seek to enjoy. Many times this is the result of landscaping that more closely resembles the type of yard you would see in downstate areas, including on downstate lakes.

Many of these lakes struggle with problems that we have been fortunate to avoid, and our more natural landscaping is one reason why.

While a natural wild shoreline and greenbelt area will provide vast protection against polluting run off, it is also possible to have a more landscaped and manicured yard and shoreline that still provides effective water protection.

Landscapers and owners who chose to concentrate on lake protection are able to create beautiful designs which compliment a lakefront home while being lake friendly.

Our Lake Guardian program encourages both preserving natural shorelines and lake friendly “manicured” landscape designs.

We understand that while different owners may want different styles of landscaping, almost all styles can incorporate lake protection as a goal.

In this newsletter, on the LCA website and in numerous brochures from Tip of the Mitt, Michigan State Extension and other environmental groups, are many examples of landscaping designs and practices that are beautiful, manicured AND lake friendly.

Such designs can become more common if property owners chose to make lake protection a prerequisite to a landscaper’s design.

These designs can be very attractive and cost less. Simply by utilizing natural areas and plants, you can lower maintenance and upkeep.

There are a number of elements which will often be found in a lake friendly design, including:

• “Greenbelt “ buffer along most of the shoreline. Township regulations generally require such a buffer, and landscapers should be required to comply with these and other applicable regulations in their plans.

• designs that will be as pervious as possible, allowing water to be absorbed. Decks, patios, drive ways, walks, etc. can be designed to absorb or deflect runoff rather than adding to it.

• eliminating turf grass near the lake shore, especially in the greenbelt area. Turf grass is not an effective filter, and often increases the use of chemicals or fertilizer near the water’s edge.

• natural plants which are heartier in our environment, require less maintenance and help avoid the introduction of invasive species.

•no beach sanding. Shorelines where beach sanding does not occur naturally is a major source of pollutants in our lake. It usually will wash into the water, carrying contaminants, and suffocating fish spawning areas.

A wild natural shoreline is great but it is not an exclusive approach to landscaping and protecting our beautiful lake.

Certainly, more extensive natural areas create more lake protection.

True protection however, comes from the way we use our property and the way we eliminate potentially harmful runoff.

This can be easily accomplished in even the most sophisticated of landscape plans.

If we and our landscapers, builders and maintenance firms require it, we can truly “have our cake and eat it too” or rather “enjoy our properties and protect our beautiful lake too!”