A native Michigan shoreline: We did it, so can you! Part 1

The steps taken by a lakefront property owner, and current participant in MSU Extension’s Lake & Stream Leaders Institute, to change his typical lakeshore into a native lakescape that protects the lake and provides a home home for birds and butterflies.

Guilty. That’s how my wife and I felt each spring when we planted those pretty annual flowers along our shoreline. Over the years we had read so many articles about how the lake and environment could benefit if we planted native plants at our lakeshore but we had always chosen the easy, convenient annuals that we could buy anyplace. But in the fall of 2013 we decided to put in practice what we had learned and here is what we did.

Step one: Begin with a plan

Allow six months to a year to develop a plan for your natural shoreline. In Michigan we have a list of Certified Natural Shoreline Professionals (CNSPs) who have been specially trained by the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership to provide lake-friendly, environmentally sound shoreline management solutions. We hired a local CNSP for a review of our shoreline and discussed our goals, budget and options. Because we were planting a buffer strip above our existing rock rip rap (and above the Ordinary High Water Mark) we didn’t need a permit from the state. Knowing that we wanted to do the work ourselves, our CNSP helped us design our natural shoreline complete with a list of native plants. The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership’s suggested list of lake-friendly, native plants was very helpful in this process and we found ourselves anxious for spring to arrive so we could get started.

Step two: Order the plants

Most regular garden centers carry very few native plants. We used a nearby nursery that only raises and sells plants native to Michigan. We pre-ordered our plants during the winter to make sure they would be available and on a Saturday in May we picked up our plant order and headed back to the lake.

Note to readers: According to Mike, Michigan State University Extension was another very useful source of information about lakescaping and other lake issues. Watch for part two of this article and read how Mike’s project turned out. 

In part 2 of this article Mike will talk about the next steps in restoring his lakeshores into a native landscape. 

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