What is LakeSmart?
LakeSmart is an education and outreach program that rewards lakefront homeowners who manage their land to protect water quality. The program is free, non-regulatory, and voluntary. Participating homeowners receive individualized suggestions for keeping pollutants from stormwater out of lake waters.
How Does it Work?
Maine Lakes partners with China Lake Association and China Region Lakes Alliance volunteers, who visit with neighbors and friends to assess their lakeside properties, checking for erosion around structures, in the yard, and along the lake. Properties that protect the lake and meet LakeSmart standards earn the coveted LakeSmart Award, consisting of two distinctive signs that can be posted at the waterfront and driveway. The signs identify the homes of good stewards and show everyone what lake-friendly living looks like.
Property owners not yet meeting the LakeSmart standards receive recommendations for what they can do to reduce erosion and protect their lake. Whether it’s installing a dripline trench around a structure, reducing lawn size and maintenance, adding more plants to a shoreline buffer, or covering bare areas of soil with erosion-control mulch, there is always something landowners can do to reduce their impact on the lakes.
Why is China Lake at Risk?
Phosphorus is a naturally occurring element that feeds lake algae, a healthy part of any lake ecosystem. But too much phosphorus can put a lake out of balance, feeding massive algae blooms that smell terrible, turn water green, degrade wildlife habitat, and potentially harm human and pet health.
You can find phosphorus in lots of places – pet waste, fertilizers, household cleaners, motor oil – none of which should ever find their way into a lake. But the biggest source of phosphorus is sand and soil that is washed into a lake after a rain event.
Signs of erosion on your property show you that phosphorus has a direct path to your lake. Look around for channels left by rain after a storm, especially near buildings and parking areas.
Why Do We Need LakeSmart?
Human activity impacts lakes. Of special concern, our houses and roads make impermeable surfaces that don’t allow rain to soak into the ground, increasing the overland flow of rain water that picks up nutrients such as phosphorus and deposits them into the lake, where they can feed unwanted algae growth.
A lake’s watershed is the area of surrounding land that channels rainfall and snowmelt via creeks, streams, rivers, ditches, storm drains, and groundwater to the lake. Watersheds supply the water that replenishes our lakes, along with other elements critical to supporting life, such as nutrients and organic matter.
An undeveloped watershed keeps lakes and rivers clean by absorbing rainfall and keeping excess nutrients, such as phosphorus, out of the water. Multiple layers of vegetation, from the tallest trees to tiny seedlings and from shrubs to ferns and perennials growing on the forest floor, help intercept rain, reducing the amount of water hitting the forest floor. Loose, deep layers of duff—the accumulation of leaves on the forest floor—absorb water and nutrients, minimizing flow directly into waterbodies.
However, every one of us lives in a developed watershed. Developed watersheds have roads, manicured lawns, rooftops, houses, driveways and parking lots that create IMPERVIOUS surfaces. These surfaces prevent rain from soaking into the ground. Rain then channels over land. Those channels gather speed and size as well as excess nutrients as they erode soils. Culverts, ditches, and storm water systems help reduce erosion and direct the flow of rainwater, but many smaller sources of erosion around homes and camps are sources of pollutants and excessive nutrients to our lakes and ponds.
LakeSmart helps address these small sources of erosion that together add up to big lake impacts.
What Does LakeSmart Look Like?
LakeSmart properties are beautiful! They are more natural than suburban, providing wildlife habitat, food for pollinators, cooling shade, privacy screening, and so much more. They are functional properties, too…with docks, decks, recreation areas and winding paths. If each homeowner does a little, the sum of many small actions adds up to a lot of lake protection. And being LakeSmart is the place to start!
What is LakeSmart?
LakeSmart is an education and reward program for lakefront property owners who maintain their homes in ways that protect lake water quality and property values. LakeSmart is the flagship program of Maine Lakes, partnered with China Lake Association and China Region Lakes Alliance.
What's the Matter with Storm Water?
Storm water runoff ruins lakes! Erosion and sedimentation from shoreline development and camp roads are the major cause of smelly, cloudy water, algal blooms, fish kills, and water you wouldn’t want to swim in.
What Does it Cost a Homeowner?
The visit is free, non-regulatory and completely voluntary. LakeSmart is the most cost-effective strategy that homeowners can use to protect their lake, their property’s value and their recreational activities. Many home/property Improvements can be “Do it yourself” or with your local Youth Conservation Corp assistance.
How Long Does it Take?
The LakeSmart visit takes less than an hour. A trained volunteer will assess four areas of your property, starting at the driveway and working toward the shorefront. You will be informed right away of the observations and you’ll receive information about lake-friendly land practices and relevant web links. Your evaluation is then sent along to the Maine Lakes for final review.
Tell Me More About the LakeSmart Evaluation Process
After final Maine Lakes review of the submitted evaluation; if your home scores well in all 4 categories and all criteria met, you will get the prestigious ‘LakeSmart Award’ and two handsome blue and white signs for posting at the roadside and lakefront. If you pass in 1 to 3 LakeSmart categories but not all criteria met, you will receive a ‘Certificate of Commendation’, helpful suggestions, and our thanks for caring about the lake. Whatever the outcome, you’ll learn how to become more lake-friendly, and that is just as important.
How Can I Participate?
Contact your local Lake Association to inquire if they have a LakeSmart Program. If they do, they will connect you with one of their trained volunteers who will assess your property. He or she will come to your home, evaluate its ability to prevent run-off and inputs of pollution, and report back to you. During the evaluation you will be able to walk the property with the volunteer and you’ll be given information on how to capture and infiltrate stormwater. LakeSmart is entirely voluntary, so you are free to take some of the recommended actions or not–it’s completely up to you.
What's the Payoff?
Research has shown that LakeSmart properties are as protective of water quality as undeveloped land. The benefits of managing the LakeSmart way are many:
Clean, clear, healthy water
Outstanding recreational opportunities
High property values
Abundant wildlife on land and in the water
Successful local businesses
Masthead Photo Credit: Amy Thibodeau