Let It Grow: A Lake Shore Stewardship Adventure

The native flowers that bloom on our hill all started when Harmony Maslowski from the Thousand Lakes Soil and Water Conservation District dropped a packet of seeds with us three years ago. She also left a brochure that explained how growing native plants along the shoreline is good for the lake and how our property could be part of the COMPASS Lake Shore Stewardship Program. I called the Thousand Lakes Soil and Water Conservation District office the following Monday to say that we were interested in being a part of this initiative.

Our participation in the COMPASS program began with a visit from Lynn Gallice, coastal technician from Mille Lacs SWCD. Lynn walked around our land and pointed out three areas where erosion was occurring. Because we are on the east side of the lake and looking through 12 miles of open water, we occasionally come across some great white hats and wave action. The purpose of the plan she proposed was to control erosion of our shoreline using a wide variety of native plants – 25 to be exact. Lynn provided us with a written plan that included a timeline, a list of plants that would thrive on our west facing slope, and a list of contractors who specialize in landscaping the lake shores with native plants. We were able to adapt the design to our specifications. For example, we wanted plants that would bloom all summer (which was done); plants that could tolerate the impacts of mooring and dock removal (also done); and plants that wouldn’t obstruct our view of the lake (also accomplished).

Once we chose the plants, Lynn helped us through the tendering and review process that culminated in our selection of Minnesota Shoreworks as a contractor in the spring of 2019. After preparing the ground, we planted in June of the same year, a little later in the month. than expected due to an extremely cold and wet spring, but once the date was set, planting went very quickly. In fact, organizing the 828 plants took almost as long as the planting itself! We greatly appreciated the care taken by the Minnesota Shoreworks team in planting the hillside and areas north and south of the cabin. In less than six hours the project was complete and all summer we enjoyed the colorful flowers of yarrow, barbon, columbine, black-eyed susan and a variety of sedges and clovers, to name just a few of the species.

Today we are enjoying our second summer of native growth on the steep hill (31 steps to the dock) in our cabin on Mille Lacs Lake. The plantations offer a range of color and beauty from May until the first hard frost, and an unexpected bonus has been the increase in populations of butterflies and birds which seem to enjoy native growth as much as we do. Another benefit is that the plants will reduce erosion and help purify the rainwater flowing into the lake. What a perfect way to give back to a lake that gives us so much pleasure!

You can also be part of the COMPASS! Lake Shore Stewardship Program. Learn more at millelacswatershed.org or contact the Soil and Water Conservation District offices of Mille Lacs, Crow Wing or Aitkin.

The Mille Lacs Lake Watershed Management Group helps landowners in the region manage their property in a way that supports the water quality of Mille Lacs Lake and surrounding areas. Formed in 1997, it connects interested citizens with experts and resources from local and state agencies, provides educational material and inspires simple actions that can have a positive impact on the lands and waters of our region.

The group will be holding their annual Healthy Land, Healthy Lake event from 9 a.m. to noon on September 18 at McQuoid’s Inn near Isle. Guests can purchase plants from the Minnesota Native Landscapes Plant Truck; bring lead material to exchange for lead-free options; learn how to help control the spread of invasive species; and meet others who are interested in the stewardship of the shores of the lake.

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