The water’s edge is alive. Herons, ducks and other birds nest near the shore to fish, skim for insects, and hunt for frogs and crayfish. Turtles sun themselves on fallen logs during the summer and bury themselves in mud along the bank during the winter. Fish spawn and lay their eggs in the shadows of fallen logs. By the water’s edge, children laugh and chase frogs while anglers in nearby boats wait patiently for a bite.  

The Minnesota DNR offers several resources to lakeshore property owners to help maintain or restore the health of their shorelines. One – the Score Your Shore tool – was designed to help people assess the condition of their properties without the help of an expert. Landowners score high points for having trees, shrubs and groundcover on the upland and shoreline portions of their properties; keeping native aquatic plants such as bulrush, pondweeds, and water lily; and leaving at least some downed tree limbs or branches in the water to provide habitat and protection from wave-based erosion. 

The goal of Score Your Shore is to identify opportunities for improvement – not shame people for having altered shorelines. 

“I went through the manual and identified 10-15 things to do my first year after buying the property,” said Tom Furey, a cabin-owner on Bone Lake. “I realized I should get my well water checked to make sure it’s safe to drink and I should probably check my soil too before I begin any landscaping projects.” He soon discovered a wealth of local assistance available through the Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District and Washington Conservation District, including free site visits, planting plans, and grants to purchase native plants.

Maintaining and restoring lakeshore habitat isn’t just good for wildlife; it also helps to protect valuable real estate from literally washing away. Trees and deep-rooted native plants hold soil in place and help rainwater to soak into the ground. Deep and widespread root systems spread out underground, creating a mesh net that holds the soil in place, limiting lakeshore erosion from waves and protecting streambanks and riverbanks from slumping. Additionally, shoreline vegetation filters out some of the nutrients and pollution that flow overland from nearby farms and neighborhoods. 

In addition to protecting against erosion, native plants like milkweed, asters and black-eyed susans add visual interest and provide food for birds and pollinators. In wooded areas, native shrubs help to keep buckthorn from invading. Submerged and emergent aquatic plants shelter and feed fish, turtles and shore birds and also provide a buffer against wave action and winter ice-heaves. 

To download a copy of the Score Your Shore manual and find other shoreline management resources, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/scoreyourshore. 

To request a free site visit in Washington County, call 651-330-8220 or go to www.mnwcd.org. In Chisago County, call 651-674-2333. Staff will provide recommendations for shoreline management and information about watershed district grants. 

Find information about local lake improvement efforts at www.clflwd.org (Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District), www.cmscwd.org (Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District), or www.ricecreek.org (Rice Creek Watershed District).

Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water. Contact her at 651-330-8220 x.35 or angie.hong@mnwcd.org.

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