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NatureSpeak Articles

Waterfront living

A lake shoreline is an ideal example of a transitional zone where land, water and air meet. This distinctly diverse mix of habitat, known as the littoral zone, is a recipe for success for many fish, birds, amphibians, and mammals. Lakeshores are also a very desirable place for humans to live and impacts on nature are always interesting when humans are introduced to the mixture. To consider the effects of our actions on the lakeshore, today we are going to examine the "shore of shame" versus the "conservation cottage."

To many people, the appearance of the shore of shame will actually seem like an ideal home or vacation spot, however a closer look reveals this shoreline is devoid of life compared to the conservation cottage next door. The shore of shame first appears as a beautifully landscaped home and with a tidy foreshore. A winding driveway takes you to the large modern building built close to shore with a great, unobstructed view of the lake. A swath of perfectly manicured lush green lawn blankets the entire yard. There is a garden planted with beautiful Japanese maples, daisies and other non-native ornamental plants incorporated into the intricately detailed concrete stack wall that drops nine feet to the water edge. A sandy beach runs along side a large, solid dock that extends far into the water with a large cruiser boat tied there.

The conservation cottage, on the other hand, is built far from the high water mark and can barely be seen through the underbrush. A small gravel trail winds from the house through large fir and hemlock, and through birch, alder and salmonberry near the shore. This forest provides protection from the wind, acts as natural air conditioning and is home for numerous mammals and birds. A floating dock sits among emergent aquatic vegetation such as cattail, bulrush and water lilies. The fish and frogs that live here keep the insect population at bay while providing hearty meals for osprey and the great blue heron. The vegetation provides a buffer from wind and wave action that would otherwise erode the shoreline. The cottage owners relax on their dock while the neighbour is busy mowing, fertilizing, weeding and maintaining the lawn and exotic garden. Run-off from the neighbour’s lawn is absorbed by the aquatic vegetation which filter pollutants from the water.

The majority of our lakefront communities lie somewhere between the shore of shame and the conservation cottage. Unfortunately, even one shore of shame along a lakefront community has a cumulative effect on the entire littoral ecosystem. For instance, a solid dock will interfere with currents, redirect winds and deflect wave action to increase erosion further along the shoreline. This disrupts nesting waterfowl, breeding amphibians and spawning fish, such as kokanee salmon, which can be seen spawning along the shores of Green Lake.

Imagine a shoreline with no conservation cottages – a shoreline made up of beaches, rock stack walls, manicured lawn to the waters edge and a series of solid docks and breakwaters. With little or no habitat value, the lake ecosystem would not be able to support waterfowl such as loons and mergansers, raptors such as eagles and osprey, fish such as trout and salmon, and the list continues down to the essential microbes.

A lakeshore is a special, desirable place for all living things because of its diverse combination of habitat. A little attention to preserving the natural setting also means less work for the landowner and more time to enjoy it. There is great value in allowing even a fraction of your lakeshore property to be left in a natural state. For more information on preserving or restoring your lakeshore, please contact the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group at 604-935-8323 and check out

Upcoming Events:

Saturday, September 7th — Whistler Bird Walk . Meet at the bottom of Lorimer Road near the entrance to the Catholic Church. Novices and newcomers welcome. Call Michael Thompson for details.

September 20-22 — Provincial Naturalists Meeting in Whistler . The Whistler Naturalists are hosting this year’s fall meeting of the Federation of B.C. Naturalists and we need some help! This three-day event will include a wide variety of talks and field trips by excellent speakers from our area and beyond. If you are interested, please contact Cathy Conroy.

Written by: Veronica Sommerville


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