A survey created by Michigan Shoreland Stewards is helping waterfront homeowners in Northern Michigan assess how their property is contributing to the pollution of their lake or river and offers tips on how to minimize that harm.

This is the official press release brought to you by Torch Conservation Center and MyNorth News Service.

Have you ever wondered how your property’s landscaping and general management may affect the health of your lake? There are many factors that contribute to lake health, and the Michigan Shoreland Stewards are encouraging homeowners to use their simple online survey to sort through possible environmental threats. “Rate Your Shoreland” helps owners rate their properties’ shorelines in accordance with state environmental guidelines to gain personalized management recommendations in 10 minutes.

“I absolutely recommend the survey to others. It allows you to look at what you have already and your future plans,” says Dave Martin, a Torch Lake property owner. “We have been very excited with the changes made and for its impact on the health of Torch Lake. The survey gave us direction in what to accomplish on our shoreline.” (Martin implemented changes on his property in response to the survey’s recommendations.)

The interactive tool separates property owners’ focus into three categories for clarity: the upland zone, the buffer zone, and the lake.

Upland Zone – 35’ and beyond from the water’s edge. Minimize hard surfaces to maximize rainwater absorption in this zone.

Buffer Zone – The critical area between the water’s edge and your yard if you have one. Increase your greenbelt buffer by landscaping with native, deep-rooted plants to create a runoff barrier between your home and the lake.

Lake Zone – This zone consists of your shoreline/beach. Prevent erosion on your shoreline by refraining from planting grass up until the water and prioritizing the natural growth of trees and other deep-rooted plants.

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Without deep-rooted plants and natural shore formations as buffers, excess nutrients like sewage, animal waste and fertilizers run into the lake and will cause the shoreline to erode over time. These changes will also contribute to the degradation of your lake’s water quality.

“We replaced our grass with a wildflowers field. Our frontage is 100% natural plants, trees or natural shore. The combination of planting natural plants, our existing trees and the pre-existing natural shoreline has given us exactly the shoreline we wanted. A lot of what we did was because of the survey,” Martin says. “We did not cut down any trees to create a break, so we still have a beautiful view of Torch. You don’t have to have 100 feet of zero trees to have a great view.”

Photo(s) by Drew Warner