MSU Extension to host workshop for lakefront homeowners

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 27, 2013

Although many who own property on Oakland County’s many inland lakes would not trade their spectacular water views and recreation opportunities, lakefront living does not come without its challenges.

When it comes to managing shorelines and maintaining the delicate balance of the lake’s ecosystem while getting the most out of water recreation and enjoyment, Michigan State University Extension is ready to help. The MSU Extension is sponsoring “Protecting Your Shoreline: A Workshop for Inland Lakefront Property Owners” 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. March 16 at the MSU Tollgate Extension Center in Novi.

MSU Extension water quality educator Bindu Bhakta said that, with more than 1,400 lakes in Oakland County alone, many lakefront owners are interested in discovering how they can better preserve and restore their natural shorelines, as well as prevent erosion and maintain the aesthetic value of the property.

“One of the things we commonly see is people who have lawns all the way to the water’s edge. This is not the greatest practice because it disrupts the lake’s ecosystem,” she said.

“The grass is not very strong-rooted, so it doesn’t support a lot of wildlife. It can also promote erosion, and send sediment and fertilizer into the lake. We like to give people options for naturalizing their shoreline with native plants.”

The workshop will provide ideas for both small-scale and large-scale improvements on how lakefront owners can use native plants in shoreline landscapes, attract fish and wildlife to the shoreline, and use bio-engineering techniques to address high-impact shorelines and the management of shoreline-invasive species.

“People live on lakes for many reasons, so they do have concerns about native plants — they think they might prevent them from having a good view of the lake, and they’re concerned about weeds and vegetation in the water,” she said.

“We’re not here to tell people they need to start ripping up their shoreline. They can start small just by not mowing all the way to the edge of the shore to help strengthen that shoreline, and allow the native plants to grow in on their own.”

The workshop will also address recent changes to the state’s rules and regulations regarding fertilizer.

“One of the big issues around these lakes is fertilizing all the way to water’s edge, which provides a source of nutrients into the lake from runoff. So law has some environmental safeguards that say, if you live so close, you can’t apply fertilizer within so many feet of shoreline,” Bhakta said.

Fertilizer runoff spurs rapid growth of algae and other aquatic plants, which can be a nuisance for those who want to boat and swim. The increased growth also reduces the amount of oxygen in the water, harming fish and other organisms.

Michele Arquette-Palermo, program director at the Clinton River Watershed Council, said the council is glad to be joining in partnership with MSU Extension as issues such as invasive species management and the benefits of native plants also affect those who live along the river.

“We’re very excited to be getting this important information out to all southeast Michigan,” she said.

“Protecting Your Shoreline: A Workshop for Inland Lakefront Property Owners” will be held 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. March 16 at the MSU Tollgate Education Center, 28115 Meadowbrook Road in Novi. Pre-registration is required, and the deadline is March 13. The cost is $45 per person on or before March 8, and $55 per person after that date. The registration fee includes light refreshments, educational resources and a copy of MSUE’s new 70-page “Natural Shoreline Landscapes on Michigan’s Inland Lakes: Guidebook for Property Owners.”

To register online visit and click on “events.”