Why we need Lake Stewards for Shoreline Living

Lake Leelanau Lake Stewards Program

The purpose of the Lake Stewards Program is to protect Lake Leelanau and its watershed by encouraging residents and visitors to engage in in best practices.

The Lake Stewards Program is the result of a growing realization that while some homeowners or businesses may engage in activities which result in harm to our lake and the surrounding watershed, many do so without either understanding the consequences of their actions or how they can easily be avoided.

Central to the protection of water quality is avoiding the use of unnecessary pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, management of yard waste, management of storm water runoff and groundwater contamination, all of which can enter the lake and affect the water where we swim, boat and play. 

Left to itself, nature creates green buffer zones around lakes to help filter water flowing into the lake from the watershed. These natural barriers protect shorelines from erosion. However, over the years, many of these natural buffer zones have been lost to lawns and landscaping.  Impervious surfaces such as structures, driveways and patios can cause further harm. The Lake Stewards Program aims to promote proper approaches to landscaping, yard design and maintenance among homeowners and businesses alike. 


Despite success in protecting the overall water quality, the Lake Leelanau watershed faces considerable stressors.   Environmental and human impacts can easily disrupt the natural balance.  Excess nutrients and sediment, lakeshore development, pressure from increasing numbers of year-round residents, more visitors and more severe storms from changing climate can negatively affect the water quality.

We are happy to report that our tests, overall, show that the quality of our water is at a high level, has remained relatively stable, and compares favorably to neighboring lakes.  But with increasing stressors, we must be diligent about implementing best practices.

Want to Discuss the Program with Someone?

Call or email our Shoreline Steward Ambassador Nancy Popa at 231-944-9509 or [email protected]

Want to do your part? Adopt Best Practices

Thoughtful owners of lakeside homes can follow a few simplebest management practices for protecting Lake Leelanau and its surrounding watershed.


Best Practices Lake Leelanau

Shorelines are critical transition areas from land to water.  A natural shoreline protects the lake and provides habitat for fish and wildlife.

  • Maintain a greenbelt – a 20–35-foot natural buffer along 70% of your shoreline to help provide filtration to trap pollutants, prevent overgrowth of noxious aquatic plants and algae, reduce erosion and discourage geese
  • Use native plants – flowers, shrubs and grasses – to stabilize shorelines which provides habitat for wildlife and prevent erosion.  These plantings can be beautiful and do not have to look messy or unkept.
  • Plant native trees for habitat and to help offset storm damage and replace dying or diseased ash, birch, beech and oaks.
  • Allow rain water to soak in and not run into the lake.
  • Use a mulching mower.  Place composting leaves and yard trimmings at least 50 feet from surface water.  Excess leaves in the lakes and creeks degrades water quality.
  • Call an expert if you have shoreline erosion.  They may be able to help stabilize the shoreline without the use of rip rap or seawalls which prevent animals from coming ashore.  See the Resources tab.

Minimize Pollution

  • Irrigate with lake water if you have a well.  It provides nutrients and preserves ground water.
  • Use eco-friendly pesticides and fertilizers, and only use if indicated by a soil test or professional consultant; eliminate all use of fertilizers within 100 feet of the water’s edge.  
  • Properly store pesticides, fertilizers and fuels.  Take part in hazardous waste collections for these and other items like paints and medical waste.
  • Inspect your boat, mower and vehicles for fuel and oil leaks.
  • Don’t use shampoos or soap in the lake.

Stop invasive species

  • CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY AND DISPOSE are key watchwords to consider to keep invasive plants and animals from entering lakes and creeks
    • Clean: Boats, trailers and equipment
    • Drain: Live wells, bilges of all water
    • Dry: Boats and all equipment
    • Dispose: Unwanted bait in the trash
  • Dispose of bait, plants, aquatic animals and fish from aquariums and ponds in the garbage….never in the lake.

Maintain your septic system

  • Have your system inpected to make sure it is working properly and have it pumped periodically (every 3-5 years).
  • Avoid using bleach and commercial products that claim to maintain the tank and septic system
  • Avoid the use of a garbage disposal

Take the Pledge to Protect the Watershed

Lake Leelanau Watershed

If you live, work or play within the Lake Leelanau watershed, your support is needed to protect and preserve this beautiful area now and for future generations. By taking the Lake Stewards Pledge, you agree to adopt some of the best practices that involve your property and its use.   The “Pledge to Protect” is for anyone — riparian, watershed resident, or regular visitor — who wants to advance the effort to protect and preserve Lake Leelanau and the surrounding watershed.

Lake Stewards Pledge Form (Download PDF)

As you read the pledge form, consider what you already do for the watershed and then pick items that will be new for you. The Lake Stewards Program uses the honor system: only you will know if what you check is what you will put into action. 

The Lake Leelanau Lake Association would like to celebrate your commitment by listing your name as a Lake Steward in our Annual Report.  You may choose to remain anonymous if you wish by checking the appropriate box at the bottom of the pledge form. 

Do you own a business? Are you a member of an organization? Businesses and other community organizations are also encouraged to become a Lake Steward.

One Place to Start: Rate Your Shore

The Michigan Shoreland Stewardship Program has created an online survey that allows you to rate your shoreland and, in the process, get customized advice on how to make improvements to your property.

Rate Your Lake Leelanau Shore

The Survey asks questions related to management practices in each of the four zones of your shoreland property: Upland, Buffer, Shoreline and Lake. It should take approximately 30 minutes.  (The only preparation required is to know the basic dimensions of your property).  Below each question is additional information to help you answer the questions as well as recommendations suggesting how you can potentially improve your management practices and rating.  The survey results are private.

Please select the Lake Leelanau Lake Association when taking the survey; this will help us track participation rates.  The survey can be taken anonymously, but we encourage you to register.  By registering, your data will be saved so that you can return to the survey as many times as you like to access recommendations for your property and to update your responses as you make changes on your property that can improve your rating. 

Visit www.mishorelandstewards.org  and scroll down to the survey link.


The Lake Steward Ambassador is Nancy Popa

Give her a call to get started or to ask questions at 231-944-9509 or [email protected]

Landscaping for Water Quality

Reducing Runoff and Erosion from your Waterfront Property

Natural Shoreline Landscapes for Michigan Inland Lakes-A Property Owner’s Guide  $25

Local Native Plant Nurseries

Certified Shoreline Contractors

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