How do I start my restoration project?

Step one is to put away that smelly, noisy mower! No more lakefront lawn chores! More time to play! More time to enjoy the lake and your yard!

Next, do some planning and preparation. With or without help from a shoreland restoration consultant, you should create a plan. Sketch a map of your yard. Indicate where you would like paths, beds of ferns, wildflowers, decorative rocks, a rain garden, trees, shrubs, maybe even a bench for watching the sun rise or set. A list of plants and seeds native to the area will be helpful.

Consider cattails or logs along the shore to reduce erosion from waves and boat wakes. Although a few strategically placed rocks along the shore is acceptable, you should not rip-rap the shore. Rip-rap looks unnatural and is very unfriendly to frogs, turtles and many other beneficial creatures. Other plants to consider:  Thorn apple or chokecherry trees to attract birds, pussy willows to attract kids, evergreens to provide some privacy, deciduous trees for shade, plus some grasses and ground covers. Your plan should not include the removal of any trees or shrubs already in place. They anchor the soil and take years to replace. Your  shoreland restoration consultant, if you have one, should have sources for native plants or can help you find them on or near your property. A consultant can also help create an instant, natural screen between you and your neighbor, if you need one.

Next, prepare the planting site. In some cases it may be necessary to purge the soil of non-native grasses. In most cases, however, direct planting and good mulching will give good results. Try not to disturb the soil more than absolutely necessary. Also, do your best to not destroy any existing native plants. Sow your seeds, place your plants, then water, water, water.

Place poultry fencing cylinders around your trees or the local beaver family will soon drop in for a midnight snack. Mark your paths so visitors don’t trample your plantings. Again, water, water, water.

Use no fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides near the water. Be especially aware that no phosphorus should come anywhere near the lake. It has a dramatic effect on unwanted aquatic plant and algae growth. (One day the sale and use of phosphorus based lawn food will be prohibited in our county.)

Finally . . . Enjoy! Watch as your restored shore and natural yard flourish. With the extra time you’ll save from less yard chores, you’ll have more time to take pleasure in your lakefront. You’ll see more critters, from butterflies to deer and everything in between.

Perhaps the greatest enjoyment will come from the satisfaction of knowing that your restoration efforts are helping to protect your lake and provide natural beauty for you and others for generations to come. It’s one of the best things you can do for the lake!


Again, it’s always best to start with a plan. An free, on-sight inspection of the property and a diagram, followed by discussions about what species to plant will get you started. There are now restorationseveral sources for native plants and seeds in Bayfield County.

Shoreland restoration consultants in Bayfield County include:

–     Sarah Boles, Native Plantscapes, Namakagon, 794-2548

–      Jim Brakken, Shoreland & Upland Enhancements, Cable, 798-3163


Native plants and seeds are available from:

–     Becky Brown , Wild Flower Woods, Washburn, 373-0214

–      M & M Greenhouse & Gifts, Barnes, 795-2099

–       Friends of the Earth Garden Center, Washburn, 373-5044

Important notes:

Permits are required when removing and/or transplanting aquatic plants in Wisconsin surface waters. Help is available for  the permitting process.

Most herbicides and fertilizers cannot be used near wetlands or surface waters.

“When it comes to waterfront development, property owners who try to trade environmental quality for personal gain usually end up with neither. The trick is to use shoreland restoration to protect the environment while, at the same time, improving your property value and enjoyment.”