On August 10th and 11th, the residents of Coleman Lake participated in a weekend-long event on naturalizing their shorelines and their properties, sponsored by the RLCA. Julia Sutton, of Sweet Fern Consulting, was our guide for the weekend.
Julia first did a row-boat tour of the lake, to get an overview of the health of our shoreline. Which, due to several factors (no gas motor boats one of them) is in pretty good shape, though she did note some problem areas, mostly with the presence of some invasive non-native species.
On Saturday afternoon we held our annual meeting for residents of the area, where Julia gave us her assessment of the lake, followed by a very detailed and helpful discussion on the whys and how’s of naturalizing. Most important, she emphasized, was the fact that successful waste treatment consists of two parts: a working septic system (something the township is in the process of checking and enforcing already), and a naturalized shoreline. The latter acts as a buffer to capture and utilize the nutrients that even a good septic system will introduce into the soil, thus ensuring they don’t make it into a lake where they would foster algae growth. She encouraged us to develop a new garden aesthetic, and learn to appreciate the messy garden, instead of the cultivated beds of more urban settings.
In the second part of her talk, she introduced us to a wide variety of native plants that we might consider for our properties, covering not only shorelines but meadows, forest edges, and woodlands. All of the plants she discussed were available from Grow Wild!, one of her preferred suppliers.
John Smith, our councilor, spoke to us after Julia finished, adding his and the township’s strong endorsement of our efforts.
Over the course of the weekend Julia was able to visit 7 properties on or around the lake and give assessments and suggestions about where people could introduce more native species. Her approach was always an incremental one – ‘start small, or you’ll never start at all’ was the message. She offered suggestions for property-specific problems:
By the end of the weekend a number of residents had filled out order forms for plants, and in September we took delivery of over 200 plants, all of them arriving in great shape. Julia returned to help with planting or planting advice. We look forward to touring the results next summer.
If you’d like to consider hosting a similar event for your lake (or your nearby neighbors), the RLCA will be happy to help you with the planning. You can start by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.