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Ice shove and runoff and geese (oh my)

Workshop offers advice for owners of shoreline property

David Wilhelms Leader Correspondent

Photo by David Wilhelms Orrin Fredrick, caretaker at Whispering Pines Retreat, indicates the power of Shawano Lake ice that can annually come 16 feet inland during the winter and early spring. Accepting that this strip “belongs to the lake,” Orrin and Kay Fredrick have cultivated a strip of native plants further away from the water for all of the 450 feet of the retreat’s shoreline.

Faced with erosion, runoff, wave action, ice shoves and, yes, even geese, what’s a shoreline property owner to do?

Some stable, environmentally-friendly options were explored at a Shoreline Restoration Workshop July 30 at Whispering Pines Retreat. The Waterways Association of Menominee and Shawano Counties (WAMSCO), Shawano County conservationist’s office and Connecting Our Waters conducted the workshop for 20 participants from lakes in Shawano, Menominee and Oconto counties.

Using native plants as a buffer was highlighted at the workshop. Bob Dumke, representing the Wild Ones chapter of native plan advocates, defined “native plant” as one that benefits local insects.

Under the care of Orrin and Kay Fredrick, the Concordia University facility on Shawano Lake’s north shore has converted all of its 450-foot shoreline into native plantings. The Fredricks said they were inspired by gardens they saw during visits to their daughter in England.

“If you have a favorite plant, you can find a native plant that’s just as pretty,” Kay Fredrick said.

The conversion was not without its challenges, Orrin Fredrick told the group.

“The lake now owns the first 16 feet,” he said, explaining that was the extent of ice shoves that severely damaged their first two years’ of plantings.

Orrin Fredrick added that he and his wife now accept the shoreline is a dynamic thing, requiring yearly maintenance such as using a skidsteer loader to even out the rocks along the shore every spring. They do not try to maintain any plants in that strip.

Orrin Fredrick pointed out that their buffer of native plantings with meandering paths for retreat visitors also discourages geese from parts of the property. Nothing will completely deter the waterfowl, he cautioned, but the plantings and path network have reduced the amount of goose droppings they’re forced to deal with. Two keys to deterring geese are the height of plants and creating paths that do not lead directly from the shore, he said.

There are other alternatives such as riprap and concrete sea walls, according to the presentations at the workshop. However, Dumke asked property owners to consider traditional lawns extending from home to the shore as only one approach to landscaping. He said every week in the U.S., enough lawns are mowed to equal the size of the state of Wisconsin. Native plants can be chosen by height to either have open views or encourage privacy.

He advocated incorporating native plantings into an overall landscaping plan, adding, “These aren’t hard things to do. They’re just different things, better things.”

He added the plea to “put just one native plant in the ground and make a difference.”

Dumke said the fall is a great time to establish native plants.

Speaking after the meeting, Emily Hennrigillis of the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance, said there is also a concern on limiting and filtering runoff from shoreline properties into waterways. Using native plants and installing “rain gardens” are ways to slow and cool off water from roofs and roads, she said, noting that warm water “can be very damaging to fish.”

A rain garden, as explained in a county conservationist office handout, is a “landscaped area formed from a hollow depression that are planted with native perennial plants. Rain gardens can also offer options for shoreline properties where there is not adequate area to establish a shoreline buffer” and in non-waterfront properties. The handout and speakers noted rain gardens are comparatively inexpensive and easy to maintain.

The cost of planning, excavation or other construction and planting can be daunting, workshop presenters said. Fortunately, for landowners, there are at least two sources of cost sharing.

Scott Frank, conservationist for Shawano County, spoke on local cost sharing possibilities. In outlining some of the projects in the county, he said there was a preference for native shoreline plantings but the county applies a flexible approach, “Your property can be ‘manicured’ but not a lawn” and “If you want just flowers, okay.”

The county accepts applications year-round, Frank said and funding is still available for this year. A minimum of 350 square feet is required to be maintain for 10 years under an agreement for cost-sharing from the county. Property owners can get 50% of their costs matched up to a maximum of $2,500 per parcel. The conservationist office can be reached at 715-526-4632.

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