LakeSmart awards signLakeSmart

Introduction

Pristine lake waters add beauty, increase property value, and provide recreational opportunities throughout the seasons.  Studies have shown that as water quality declines the value of shorefront property also decreases.  Declining water quality can also affect the type and number of fish species that inhabit the lake and can hinder other recreational uses of the lake as well as the local economy.

LakeSmart is a program that offers FREE opportunities for homeowners to learn how to manage their home and yard to protect the water quality of their lake.  The goal of LakeSmart is to change the increasingly common suburban landscaping practices around lakes to more natural, lake-friendly environments.

The primary focus of LakeSmart is to keep our lake water clean by stabilizing eroding areas, reducing the use of chemicals, diverting rainwater into vegetated areas, and maintaining or planting trees, shrubs, and ground cover along the shoreland. Landscaping and managing your property in an environmentally friendly manner through LakeSmart is one way for you to help your lake and have a low-maintenance, great-looking property.

How we develop the land that drains to a lake can have a huge effect on the water quality. If we bring the suburban landscaping practice of large lush lawns to the lakeshore, or even the lake watershed, we bring more sources of pollution. With fewer natural, vegetated areas to absorb stormwater, more pollutants from the land get washed into the lake each time it rains or snow melts.  

How Does the LakeSmart Evaluation Process Work?

The LakeSmart evaluation process involves a site visit by a DEP certified Soil and Water Conservation District employee, or other qualified individual. During the visit the evaluator will ask you questions about your property. If for some reason you can not be present during the evaluation, you can fill out the pre-evaluation questionnaire and return it to your lake association's LakeSmart coordinator. Next, the evaluator walks around the property and reviews landscape and management practices in the five following categories:

  • Road, Driveway, and Parking Areas;
  • Structures and Septic System;
  • Lawn, Recreation Areas, and Footpaths;
  • Shorefront and Beach
  • Undeveloped Land.

Points based on established criteria are given in each category.  If a property owner scores 67% or more points in a given category, he or she is recognized for their efforts in that category with an award certificate. Often an evaluator will make recommendations for improvements that will help the property qualify for the LakeSmart Award and further protect water quality.

If the property owner scores 67% or more points in the first four categories, he or she receives an award certificate and sign (pictured above) for their LakeSmart property. Award winners are published (with the permission of the owner) in newspapers, newsletters and on the web page. See LakeSmart Awards.

How Can You Receive a LakeSmart Award?

Currently, DEP is working with 33 lake associations around the state. We implement the program through local soil and water conservation districts. In order to focus our resources where we can be the most successful, we only accept lakes into the program whose association is willing to make a three-year commitment to encouraging LakeSmart practices. We want lakes to reach the self-sustaining point of 15% of shoreline properties being LakeSmart. Social-marketing Theory states that if 15% of a community is engaged in a new behavior, that behavior has the momentum to spread on its own; so lake-friendly practices will spread.

We have had so much interest from lake associations that we have developed an application process. This process not only helps the DEP select lakes for the program, but informs lake associations about our expectations once they are in the program. At the present time, we are not accepting applications for lakes to join the program as the program is at capacity.  As soon as there is capacity for additional lakes, applications will be available. 

Program Evaluation

Studies of the effectiveness of the program are available. Please contact Bill Laflamme at 215-9237.