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Healthy Shorelines

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 your property

  • protect lake water quality

  • protect against erosion from waves, boat wakes and flooding

  • slow the growth of aquatic "weeds" and algae

  • 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

  • protect against the effects of climate change, extreme weather events and drought

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

Shoreline Conservation Initiative

Environment Council’s Shoreline Conservation Initiative committee is well advanced in its advocacy with surrounding townships toward implementation of new shoreline protection regulation.

The Initiative was launched in early 2021 in response to widespread concerns about extensive damage being done to trees, other natural vegetation and the natural landscape on shoreline lots during building, re-building and hard landscaping projects.

More on the Initiative, below.


Initiative Details

Goals of the Shoreline Initiative

  • Stronger, more proactive policy protection for shorelines and natural heritage through the new Peterborough County Official Plan;

  • Implementation of Township by-laws to protect of 75 percent of the land area within the required riparian setback zones on all waterfront residential lots; and 

  • Increased education of the lake community about the ecological and practical benefits of natural and restored shorelines, and good shoreline stewardship practices.


Taking the Message to the Townships

Committee members have made two deputations to each of Selwyn and Douro-Dummer Township Councils.  The initial presentations outlined how natural, well-vegetated shorelines function to protect water quality and the many reasons they need to be protected.  Councils were also shown examples of the extensive damage being done to shoreline lots.

The second deputations showed new mapping of the condition of Clear and Stoney Lake shorelines, gave examples of shoreline protection regulations being used by other municipalities, and asked the Townships to develop new protective regulation.  Information packages sent to the Townships included support letters from most of the lake associations on Clear and Stoney Lakes.

The Townships’ responses are encouraging.  They acknowledge the damage being done and that new approaches may be needed.  Selwyn is undertaking a review of its current initiatives for shoreline and other environmental protections.  The need for a consistent approach to regulation around the lakes has also been identified.

Working in Partnership

The Initiative committee has worked closely with North Kawartha Lakes Association (NORKLA) and representatives from Anstruther, Chandos and Jack Lakes, who share a common goal. This group has made presentations to the Councils of North Kawartha and Havelock-Belmont-Methuen and Trent Lakes. 

In 2022, Environment Council responded to the Draft County/Townships Official Plan, pointing out a number of areas where the Plan needed to be strengthened to provide better protection for all residential shorelines and natural heritage features.


Committee members and other supporters of the Initiative participated in Official Plan open houses and public meetings to reinforce the need for stronger shoreline protections to be built into the Plan before it was submitted to the Province. 



Shoreline Facts


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.

Getting 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 the Camp Kawartha shoreline restoration project and at a lucky homeowner's Natural Edge-sponsored waterfront transformation. (Photos by Tina Warren)


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.

Living on the Edge, Naturally

EC partners with Kawartha Lake Stewards Association to deliver the Watersheds Canada Natural Edge program to Ston(e)y, Clear and White Lakes.

Six waterfront owners on Ston(e)y and White Lakes are giving their shorelines a Natural Edge through this Watersheds Canada shoreline restoration program.

The program is being delivered to our lakes by the Kawartha Lake Stewards Association (KLSA), assisted by Environment Council. The current program is largely funded by an RBC Tech for Nature grant, with contributions from the owners whose waterfronts are being restored.  

In mid-August, 2021, Natural Edge program manager Chloe Lajoie made site visits to three shoreline properties on Upper Stoney and White Lake and then designed planting plans for each, featuring native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.  

These illustrated plans were readily agreed to by the owners, in time for planting of their shorelines on October 2. With Chloe's guidance, owners, neighbours and KLSA and Environment Council volunteers all dug in to help.  

These owners and their families can now look forward to having more colourful, stable shorelines that will help protect water quality and wildlife, while discouraging geese.

Three more site assessments were carried out on Stony Lake in the fall. Planting plans were developed and approved.

In June, homeowners and volunteers planted native plants and shrubs on two of the three sites. Planting at the third property has been postponed until fall due to the aftermath of the derecho.


Camp Kawartha
Project Recap

Two large sections of the Camp Kawartha shoreline on Clear Lake have been restored to work in harmony with the lake, through a project partnership initiated by the Environment Council for Clear, Ston(e)y and White Lakes.  

The two-year project to revitalize damaged sections of the Camp's shoreline was completed in August 2020, when more than 20 enthusiastic volunteers gathered to plant an eroded woodland slope just above the shoreline. Members of the lake community, local environmental studies students and other youths planted more than 250 native shrubs, perennial wildflowers, grasses and ferns in the woodland clearing.  

Phase one of the project took shape in August 2019 when 30 volunteers converged on what had been an eroded weedy slope around the Camp's pumphouse. They planted almost 1300 native shrubs and perennial wildflowers in the 20 by 15-metre area.  


As the native plants with their strong, spreading root systems mature, they are stabilizing the shoreline slopes and reducing erosion. This helps protect lake water quality by trapping sediment and nutrients in storm water runoff -- reducing sedimentation of fish habitat and slowing the growth of invasive aquatic plants and algae.  

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.

The landscape and planting plans were designed by Helen Batten, Basterfield & Associates Landscape Architects. B&A also designed interpretive signage for the two restored areas. Douglas Kennedy, Green Side Up Environmental Services, installed the planting beds, paths and erosion control features and oversaw the planting. 

Camp staff also pitched in, raising significant donations for the project, and helping with site prep, planting days and ongoing care of the site. The revitalized areas are now part of the Camp's outdoor environmental education programs for kids. 

Through presentations and guided tours, the Environment Council is using the restored areas to show lake residents the benefits of natural shorelines and how to get started on making their own waterfronts healthier.

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


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.

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