Workshop to encourage shoreline preservation

REED CITY —  Interested in what you can do to preserve the Muskegon River?

Here’s your chance to find out.

The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly will be hosting a Natural Shorescaping workshop for homeowners and landscapers March 24 to inform the public about alternatives to harmful turf-grass shorelines.

Michigan is home to over 11,000 inland lakes with pristine shorelines, including miles of river systems and the unique Great Lakes’ coastlines. While much of the Muskegon River Watershed is still pristine, development is becoming the norm as more and more people want to claim a little slice of paradise for themselves.

“Our lakes are starting to feel the impact of development,” said MRWA program coordinator Terry Stilson.

As luscious, green lawns mowed to the water’s edge are replacing hundreds of native shoreline plants, the body of water faces significant consequences, Stilson said.

Mowed grass and seawalls surrounding a lake cause large decreases in Michigan native shorebirds, fish and other wildlife. They increase stormwater runoff which carries sediments, lawn pesticides, fertilizers and other pollutants into the lakes, stimulating growth of nuisance aquatic plants and causing extreme shoreline erosion. Mowed lawns also encourage geese which produce feces that adds nutrients and E.coli into the lakes.

“People see mowed grass (on shorelines) as beautiful,” Stilson said. “We’re trying to change that perception because it’s really harming our waterways.”

An area of native plants along the majority of a shoreline creates a good environment for fish and wildlife. It also filters nutrients and bacteria, reduces runoff, minimizes shoreline erosion, and provides a pleasing landscape.

A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessment of Michigan inland lakes indicated that poor biological health is three times more likely in lakes with poor shoreline habitat. Whether a property is located alongside a lake or stream, or in an area that is drained by ditches, sandy soils or storm water pipes, there are many ways that property owners and landscapers can improve water quality through using wise landscaping choices.

By attending the workshop, participants will learn more about the basics of natural lake ecosystems; the concept of “shorescaping”; lawn management; the use, function, and selection of native plants; how to recognize and address shoreline invasive species; and more.

Homeowners will be given assistance with creating a property map and personalized landscape design for their unique shorelines, as well as receive a coupon worth $20 toward a purchase of native plants at the Roscommon, Missaukee, Clare, or Mecosta-Osceola Conservation Districts’ native plant sales.

Landscapers will learn more about how to become a Certified Natural Shoreline Professional and have their business name added to a state web-list of certified shoreline landscapers. They will also be entered into a drawing for one paid spot in the three-day CNSP program, a $375 value.

Facilitators for the workshop include professionals from the MRWA, Ferris State University, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Huron Pines RC&D, Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, and Missaukee Conservation District.

The project will be held at G.T. Norman Elementary from 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The workshop costs $10 for MRWA members and $25 for non-members, or $20 for the workshop and MRWA membership. Landscaping companies can send two employeesfor the price of one.

A registration form is available at www.mrwa.org and the deadline to register is March 16.

For more information, contact MRWA Program Coordinator Terry Stilson at (231) 591-2324.