By Megan Peloso
Around the lake, people are busy preparing their homes for another blissful summer. As hosts, spring cleaning involves freshening up and de-cluttering inside our homes as well as outdoor grooming in anticipation of guests. Homeowners living by the shoreline often encounter debris that is different from the typical human-made garbage left after snowmelt. Before you finish tackling the seasons chores, consider a few ways you can use shoreline debris to your advantage while saving yourself some hassle.
What is garbage and what is natural debris?
This March, local residents put their efforts together to collect litter on public beaches and shorelines of Lake Windermere, removing all the human-made garbage we encountered. Everyone can agree that garbage left by the shore is unsightly and unsafe. But what about natural debris?
At first sight, natural landscape features may be mistaken for a mess. But for the most part, rocks, driftwood, logs, plants, and aquatic vegetation actually help to protect the shore from erosion, assist with flood control, filter pollution and provide food, shelter and nesting habitat for wildlife. Rather than removing these features, consider other options that will help to protect your shore from erosion in the long-term.
Leveraging natural assets
Build a walkway over debris, or a narrow path through them to access the water.
Set aside a natural shoreline area. Enhance it by planting native plants and shrubs.
Prune branches blocking your view instead of removing trees or bushes.
If you have a knack for landscaping (or know someone who is keen to lend you a hand), try incorporating the important functions of a natural shoreline into your project. For example, work with the visual appeal of native plants, well-defined and curving edges and other accents like benches and stepping-stones.
Building in a buffer
All of these are suggestions to help you generate that balanced buffer zone which will preserve easy access to the lake with the added benefit of retaining high water quality and aquatic habitat that make the lake such a blissful summer retreat. Without buffers, a shoreline can experience accelerated runoff, increased erosion and a greater quantity of nutrients entering the water, particularly nitrates and phosphates. Too many of these nutrients can trigger eutrophication, a process that stimulates algal blooms.
Depending on how you look at it, you have lots (or less!) to think about during your spring cleaning. Remember, a natural buffer area along the shoreline is beneficial for your property (and your back!) and for the wildlife that shares the Columbia River watershed.
Megan Peloso is the Program Co-ordinator for the Lake Windermere Ambassadors. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 250-341-6898.