Illustration by Kellie Jaeger
Healthy lakes are like puppies and apple pie – we all love and adore them. So, of course, your lake deserves TLC. There are steps you can take to make sure your cabin property is lake-friendly. We break them down for you below.
1. Let fallen logs lie to create habitat for sunning turtles above water and aquatic life beneath.
2. Rocky bottoms can serve as spawning grounds for fish, such as bass, perch and crappie.
3. Avoid creating a large beach area. If you must have a beach, keep it small. Instead, focus on creating a shoreline buffer, a vegetative zone along the shore. The presence of native plants along the shore buffers or protects the lake by keeping erosion at bay and by filtering contaminated water and/or excessive nutrients that would otherwise enter the water body. A buffer that extends 25-50 feet from shore is ideal, but even 10-15 feet is beneficial.
4. Trees along the shore provide shade for aquatic life, stabilize the shoreline and filter runoff water before it seeps into the lake.
5. Eliminate paths that run directly from the cabin to the waterfront. Curvy paths allow water to soak in, thereby increasing soil stability. To prevent the path’s soil from compacting, cover it with shredded bark to help the ground retain moisture.
6. If you must keep a mowed lawn, consider limiting it to the area around your cabin. Apply fertilizers and pesticides sparingly. Keep in mind that anything you put on your lawn will probably end up in the lake. Because of this, you should try to avoid using fertilizer on the grass at your lake property. Fertilizer is full of things that help plants and other things grow. This can be wonderful for the grass on your lawn, but if the fertilizer gets in the lake, it can cause tiny plankton to grow as well. Plankton are microscopic animals in the lake that use up oxygen when they breathe, just like humans. An overabundance of plankton will drain all the oxygen from the lake. And, of course, oxygen is needed by fish and other animals in the lake to survive. Fertilizer can also cause algae to grow and multiply, resulting in a layer of gross, green and harmful or toxic slime.
7. To slow stormwater runoff, consider pervious driveways and paths. And use gutters and rain barrels for the cabin, garages and major outbuildings.
8. Maintain a properly functioning septic system that will not leach contaminants into your lake.
9. Clean your boat, motor and gear immediately after taking them out of a body of water, so you don’t spread invasive species to other water bodies.
10. Maintain or replace your old 2-stroke boat motor to prevent leakage. (About 30% of all gas and oil used in these engines ends up in the water.)
11. Keep swimming areas small, while allowing emergent plants to grow. Species like bulrushes and reeds absorb the erosive energy of incoming waves.
12. Consider starting a lake association! By gathering with your neighbors, there is strength in numbers. Together, you can monitor lake quality, help prevent the incursion of invasive species and more!
See also Building at the Water’s Edge