HACKENSACK -- Anyone touring Birch Lake, which abuts downtown Hackensack, will be surprised to get a view of mostly natural, tree-lined shoreline. Not too many houses or much development show from the water.
One reason is Birch Lake Association's effort begun in 1997 with help from a $4,000 DNR Community Partnership grant to maintain and restore natural vegetation along the shoreline.
Area people donated time and money toward the project along with $2,700 from Cass County Environmental Services for maps of the shoreline until $12,086.64 went into the project.
In September, property owners' and grant time and money were rewarded when the Birch Lake Association received first place for the Brainerd Lakes Area Audubon Society, Crow Wing Lakes and Rivers Alliance, 1,000 Friends of Minnesota, Minnesota Lakes Association and DNR Non-game Wildlife Program Lake-Friendly Landscaping Award.
From Birch Lake, Doug Hoopman's home is barely visible. Native vegetation grows along the bank, which Hoopman left in place when he landscaped the property. (Photos by Monica Lundquist)
DNR Conservation Officer Doug Sandstrom, who through his career has observed the impact development has had on Cass and Crow Wing County lakes, is convinced the future clarity of lakes here depends upon property owners understanding the impact they have on lakes for their lifetime and that of their children and grandchildren.
Birch Lake Association is trying not only to practice good shoreline protection on members' private properties, but also share work and findings with other lakeshore owners.
Birch Lake Association has set up a tour of its project. It's an effort to prevent and reverse the impact development can have on a lake. Anyone can obtain a self-guided map from the chamber of commerce in Hackensack or have a guided tour for five to 10 people from the center of downtown Hackensack where there is a boat landing.
Doug Hoopman, one of the residents who participated in the initial 10 Birch Lake project sites, demolished an old trailer house and built a modern two-story home on Birch.
Jerry and Sandy Secora have begun new plantings to restore a buffer between their lawn and the shoreline on Birch Lake in Hackensack. Bulrushes in the water have not been disturbed.
He took advantage of plantings offered from the Birch Lake project to create a privacy buffer on either side of his home. While he has created an impressive lawn immediately surrounding his house, the bank and lower tier toward the lake have been left in the original natural state.
This includes native cedar, spruce, birch and pine on the shore and bull rushes in the water to deter the impact of wave action.
Leading to the lake and his dock and boat lift are steps formed from Alkaline Copper Quantinary treated lumber (not the commonly used green treated lumber). Kelvin Zaffke, owner of Hackensack Ace Hardware and Lumber, said the newer ACQ lumber will become the standard after Dec. 1 this year.
It is more environmentally friendly and, unlike the green treated or creosoted wood, will not harm waterways or surrounding ground.
The steps down to the lake from Doug Hoopman's home were built with Alkaline Copper Quantinary treated wood, which is environmentally friendly. Kelvin Zaffke, owner of Hackensack Ace Lumber and Hardware, said this will be the only kind of treated wood available after Dec. 1 this year.
After completing his home, Hoopman was pleased to find he still has a good view of the lake and can enjoy sunlight warming his home in winter. Yet, from the water, you have to move close to the shoreline to see there is a house atop the hill where Hoopman's house is located.
Plantings used in the initial Birch Lake project included juniper, hackberry, red splendor crab, mountain ash, nannyberry, chokecherry, high bush cranberry, serviceberry, serviceberry and red twig dogwood. More than 1,250 trees were planted.
The first site on the tour is the Hackensack butterfly garden adjacent to the chamber of commerce and city dock.
The main concern in shoreline plantings around residential properties, said project coordinators and Birch Lake residents Sybil Nies and Shirley Johnson, is to establish plantings that will develop deep root systems and prevent both erosion and pollution seepage from developed areas.
Young vegetation provides a buffer from the side yard lot line toward Doug Hoopman's house.
Birch Lake Association's project did not end when the grant ran out in 1999. Several lake residents have begun shoreline restoration projects on their own since then.
Jerry and Sandy Secora are Hoopman's neighbors. Their lawn has run from their house down to the rock ice barrier at water's edge. They have planted shoreline vegetation across about a third of their property and mulched it to give it a good start. Eventually, they hope to expand across their shoreline.
Nies said several other Birch Lake property owners have begun restoration projects. Birch Lake Association is considering buying additional plantings to offer to members at discounted prices possible by making a large group purchase.
Anyone interested in touring the lake can contact Hackensack Chamber of Commerce at (218) 675-6135. Anyone interested in learning more about the project can contact Nies at (218) 675-6389.
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