Look around at lakeshore in the Brainerd area and what do you see? Mostly developed shoreline.
Perhaps this was inevitable, because most shoreline was developed by people who own homes in cities, where tidy, weed-free lawns are the norm.
In the city this isn't bad. But near a lake a mowed lawn isn't good, and when a lake is highly developed and all the natural buffers between man-made structures and the water disappear the water suffers.
As much as 85 percent of the shoreline on lakes in the Gull and Whitefish chains could benefit from habitat restoration, said Heather Baird, DNR shoreline habitat specialist in Brainerd. On our smaller lakes that percentage isn't as high.
A crew of workers prepared a shoreline for re-seeding on Shirt Lake near Deerwood. Native plants suitable to the site were chosen and planted. The work took three days.Submitted Photo/DNR
Slowly, trends seem to be shifting from highly developed to more natural shorelines. The DNR has had a shoreline restoration program in place for nine years and over that time 245 habitat restoration projects have been completed in 46 counties.
The program is gaining momentum, but it has a long way to go.
Locally, the DNR this summer is assisting lakeshore property owners with restoration projects on Shirt, Serpent, Margaret, Upper Gull, East Fox Lake, Rush Lake, Kimball and Lower Cullen lakes. The DNR is picking up 75 percent of the cost of these projects, with the landowner responsible for the remaining 25 percent. Grant applications may be made by individuals or by lake associations. Go to the DNR web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us for more information.
Saving our lakeshore
This is the last story in a three-part series looking at the history, present and future of lakeshore in the Brainerd lakes area. This week's report looks at restoration opportunities and techniques.
Part 1 - A lake untouched by development
Part 2 - A natural mess
This year's project on Shirt Lake, illustrated by the photos on this page, is an example of where a lake association can assist with a restoration. Association members saw an old, collapsed retaining wall adjoining two properties and convinced the landowners to replace it with a rain garden, which provides a better buffer between land and water. Each landowner was given $250 to complete the project, which includes 200 feet of shoreline.
A load of sand was brought in to fill the cavity left behind when the retaining wall was removed. Then a crew of 10 workers planted 30 different species of native plants, including irisis, sedge and marigolds. The project took three days to complete.
"The shoreline was caving in," said John O'Rourke, one of the property owners. "It's good to get this done so chemicals don't run into the water."
On Gull Lake, property owners can apply together for block grants totaling $25,000. The man heading the project is Bob Gussendorf, who this summer is restoring his shoreline on Lake Margaret. Already this summer property owners are restoring 500 feet of shoreline on Gull.
"This is by far the best program we've found," Gussendorf said. "It directly is reducing the pollution that goes into the lake. But it's more than just pollution control, it's a matter of aesthetics. It's nice to see green instead of McMansion, the up north look rather than the suburban look. What we don't protect today we'll lose tomorrow. That's the fundamental principle we need to grasp."
If more shorelines in the Brainerd area looked like this, water quality in our lakes would greatly improve. This summer nine lakeshore property owners in the area took on habitat restoration projects.
To learn more about shoreline restoration possibilities on the Gull chain, attend the Gull Chain of Lakes Association's annual meeting at 5 p.m. on July 12 at the Zapfee compound at 4028 Barrows Point Road, located on the east shore of Gull Lake.
Some lakeshore property owners might want to restore their shoreline without outside assistance. To assist these independent folks, the DNR has produced "Restore your Shore," a CD-ROM that shows which plants are native to each county. Landowners determine their shoreline type (shady, sunny) and how high they want plants to grow and a list is provided to them. Landsburg Landscape Nursery in Baxter sells a native seed mix that's suitable to many area shorelines.
"That's the bottleneck right now, getting the native plants," Baird said. "A lot of people don't know what they are."
To learn which plants are native to your area and where you can buy them, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/gardens/nativeplants/suppliers.
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