What Happens on Land Affects our Water

Did you know that the state of your shoreline directly affects the quality of the water that you swim and play in on your own waterfront and elsewhere on the lake? Shorelines that are eroded, hardened or bordered with lawn allow soil, pollutants and nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to wash into the water. Some of these substances stay in the water and some settle to the bottom. This damages water quality and fish habitat and fertilizes excessive growth of algae and aquatic plants.

Natural shorelines, containing a variety of native plants with their deep strong root systems, slow down natural runoff and trap nutrients, pollutants and eroding soil before they can reach the water. Natural and restored shorelines with a variety of native ground covers, wild flowers, shrubs and trees also:

  • protect against erosion from waves, boat wakes and flooding;

  • provide important habitat for a wide range of land-based and aquatic wildlife;

  • help keep geese off your property;

  • supply important food sources for bees, Monarch butterflies and other pollinators;

  • save you work – with less or no lawn to cut, you’ll have more deck and dock time!



As development pressure increases on our lakes and more cottages are redeveloped into large year-round homes, concern is mounting about the impact on shorelands and water quality.

A growing number of people are worried by the increasing removal of trees and shoreline vegetation and the installation of hard shorelines, lawns and other 'ornamental' landscaping.  

In some cases, new development and redevelopment are resulting in almost complete destruction of the natural shore areas between the water and the new homes.

Unfortunately, many waterfront owners, building companies and contractors don't seem to be aware that undisturbed, well vegetated shorelands are essential to protect lake water quality, slow the growth of invasive aquatic plants and algae and prevent damage to habitat for aquatic and land-based wildlife. 

For many years the Environment Council and other organizations have been working to inform the lake community about the importance of preserving natural shorelines, and restoring damaged ones to a healthier state.   But it's become clear that public education isn't enough to prevent the damage that's occurring.  

We believe stronger measures are needed.  To this end, the Environment Council has launched a Shoreline Conservation Initiative to advocate for shoreline protection policy, regulation and enforcement at the municipal level and through our local conservation authority.

Over the past few years, we have made written and oral submissions to the Peterborough County Planning Department (PCPD) urging that stronger shoreline protection policy be included in the County/Township Official Plan, currently being updated.   

At a recent meeting, we stressed the urgency of this issue and referred to Haliburton County's draft shoreline protection by-law as a possible model for regulation.  PCPD staff recommended that our committee undertake education and advocacy efforts with the Townships and other stakeholders -- and we are acting on this.   

We are reasonably confident that the Official Plan will be strengthened, but we believe that the direction provided by the Plan needs to be reinforced 'on the ground' by shoreline regulation -- Township by-laws or other mechanisms -- and ongoing monitoring and enforcement. 

Our goal is to have shoreline protection policy and regulation implemented to protect trees and other natural vegetation in 75 percent of the land area within the 30-metre shoreline residential water yard setback currently required by the Townships.

This goal is based on extensive scientific evidence, and on upper tier government direction, including Environment Canada guidelines developed some years ago in conjunction with the Province. 

Environment Canada states that 75 per cent of the shore area 30 metres back from the water should be left in a natural state to protect water bodies and essential wildlife habitat.

Peterborough County, four surrounding townships and the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority all have roles with respect to our shorelands above the high-water mark.  Yet, achieving stronger shoreline protection policy and regulation is an ambitious undertaking.

As a first step, we are working to build support from the lake community through the lake associations and other groups and individuals.  

To date three lake association boards have given their support; and further association support will be an important factor in our discussions with the Townships about regulation.

Through FOCA, we have also contacted a number of lake associations in other parts of the County.  Several have a similar goal, and we hope to work with them in a mutually supportive way. 

Our committee also plans to make on-line presentations to as many lake residents as possible, to further raise awareness about the importance and benefits of natural shorelines and the need to protect them through regulation.   

This Shoreline Conservation Initiative is critically important to the health and continued enjoyment of our lakes, as well as to long-term property values -- and we need your help with it.

We're looking for assistance with social media communications, discussions with the Townships, delivering presentations, and organizational support.

If you or someone you know could help with any of these activities, please contact Roslyn Moore,


What not to do

Replacing your shoreline's natural vegetation with grass and adding hardscaping robs wildlife of its essential habitat and allows run-off of potentially toxic substances into the lake.



Restoration project brings new life to Camp Kawartha shoreline

Another section of Camp Kawartha's shoreline on Clear Lake got a makeover on Saturday morning, August 15, thanks to more than 20 enthusiastic planting volunteers.

This completes a two-year project to revitalize damaged sections of the Camp's shoreline and return them to a more natural state.  The project was initiated by the Environment Council for Clear, Ston(e)y and White Lakes and has been supported by a number of foundations and individual donors.

This year's volunteers included members of the lake community and local environmental studies students, who are also acting as Lake Guardians this summer to help carry out an extensive Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Project on Clear and Ston(e)y Lakes.

Together, they planted more than 250 native perennial wildflowers, grasses, ferns and shrubs in a woodland clearing that slopes steeply toward the lake, greatly increasing the plant diversity of the site.  

Last August, volunteers planted a larger damaged, grassy slope with about 1300 native shrubs and perennial wildflowers.  Those who returned this year were happy to see the site looking colourful, and helped fill in a few bare spots with new plants.   

The landscape design for the plantings and other features was provided by Helen Batten, Basterfield & Associates Landscape Architects of Peterborough. Douglas Kennedy, Green Side Up Environmental Services of Omemee, installed the planting beds, paths and erosion control features and oversaw the planting.

As the native plants with their strong, spreading root systems mature, they will stabilize the shoreline slopes and reduce erosion, helping to protect lake water quality by trapping sediment and nutrients in stormwater runoff before they reach the water, the Environment Council explained.

Plants for the two sections of shoreline were selected to provide shelter and natural food sources for land-based animals, birds, bees and butterflies, and for their attractiveness and resilience to climate change.

Environment Council will conduct workshops and tours on the site to demonstrate to lake residents how keeping shorelines natural, and restoring damaged waterfronts, helps protect their own property and lake water quality.

The restored shoreline areas will also be featured in Camp Kawartha's outdoor environmental education programs, and they complement a number of other eco-gardening projects around the Camp property, a Camp spokesperson said.  

Camp Kawartha and Environment Council wish to thank their volunteers and the generous donors who made this project such a success:  Stony Lake Heritage Foundation, Ontario Wildlife Foundation, Basterfield & Associates Landscape Architects Inc., Carol and Ralph Ingleton, Arscott Family Foundation, Ann and Ross Dobbin, and Penny and Robert Little.

For details and images of the first phase of planting in 2019, scroll down.

Photos below by Tina Warren (with the exception of the closeup on hands).


Looking for information about the specific plants and shrubs used for this shoreline restoration project? The Camp Kawartha website has all the details. Click below.


Wildlife Depends on the Ribbon of Life

Scientific evidence shows that the first 10 to 15 metres of shoreland and the shallow water next to it – known as the riparian zone or ribbon of life – is essential to the survival of almost all species.

Ninety percent of all lake and river life depends on shoreline areas for birth, feeding and survival. Seventy percent of land animals also depend on shorelines for survival at some point in their lives.

Hardening shorelines with concrete shore walls or large stone blocks interrupts this ribbon of life and doesn’t prevent erosion over the long term. Removing natural vegetation and replacing it with lawn destroys the food sources and protective cover that wildlife needs to survive.

How much natural shoreline is enough? Looking at the big picture, Environment Canada guidelines say that 75 percent of a lake, 30 metres back from the shore, should be left natural to keep local populations of wildlife from disappearing. When it comes to individual properties, research shows that a 10-metre buffer zone of natural vegetation at the shoreline is needed to protect wildlife habitat and lake water quality.

We recognize that many properties, and families’ needs for play areas, may not be able to accommodate this but it's important to keep natural or re-naturalize as much of this 10-metre band along the edge of the water as possible.


How Do We Get Started

Here are a few simple steps:

  • If you have a lawn down to the edge of the water or close to it, stop cutting the first three to five metres back from the shore. Native plants will start to appear and you can gradually add more and increase the width of the buffer.

  • Keep any remaining lawn at least seven centimetres tall to slow runoff. Rainwater runs off short lawn grass about twice as fast as off larger plants.

  • Think about how you use your waterfront, and whether there are parts of it not used, or rarely used. Begin to naturalize these areas.

  • To help protect the water, make sure no fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides are used, and that no gas or oil is spilled.

To find out more about the importance of natural shorelines and how to naturalize yours, see:

All images (below) show our volunteers at work on Phase One of the Camp Kawartha shoreline restoration project.



In 2019 the Environment Council launched an action plan to raise awareness about how natural shorelines protect lake water quality, and to encourage waterfront owners to restore altered shorelines.  

Three main events anchored our Year of the Natural Shoreline – as we called it:

• A interactive Shoreline Naturalization Workshop, held at Crowe's Landing;

• A highly successful volunteer planting day at Camp Kawartha (phase one of the restoration project undertaken jointly with the camp);

• And finally, a guided shoreline tour of the naturalized shoreline, held a month after planting took place.

The Stony Lake Heritage Foundation assisted us with funding for these three events. We received very positive feedback from participants – several of whom were inspired to embark on their own restoration projects.

Phase two of this action plan was completed on August 15th, 2020. For a report on Phase, read on.


EC volunteer Ralph Reed checks the shoreline site plan created by landscape architect Helen Batten of Basterfield & Associates in Peterborough. Batten specified over 1,000 native shrubs and wildflowers that will require little to no maintenance. Phase two of this exciting project is scheduled to move ahead in Summer 2020.

Planting gets underway during the first phase of Camp Kawartha's shoreline rehabilitation project. The reimagined waterfront will stand as an example of a healthy shoreline, full of deep rooted native plants and shrubs that will impede erosion and run-off, provide an all-important ribbon of life for wildlife, and enhance the camp's environmental education programs.

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