Pollinator-friendly plants are incorporated into area lakeshore restoration project
By Lori C. Adler
Photos by Dan Butkus
“I want a view of the lake.” This is what Dan Butkus remembers his dad saying about the summer home on Squash Lake his parents purchased 60 years ago. Butkus grew up on this lake, noting “It’s the lake I learned to swim on.” In the early days, there were trees and grasses filled with birds and other creatures, but not long after purchasing the summer home, his dad made changes so there could be a better view of the lake. No regulations were in place at that time, and so the senior Butkus cleared the trees all the way to the lake. There was almost 200 feet of shoreline, all in lawn.
Even at a young age, Butkus said, he didn’t like the change and as he got older, he thought about returning to a more natural setting someday. After Butkus and his sister inherited the property, they stopped mowing the grass, but while that grew, trees and shrubs did not. Nothing else was coming back. They needed some serious lakeshore restoration plans and began working with a local landscaper.
Changes to the property began in 2015 when the siblings received a Wisconsin Healthy Lakes grant. The grant funded the first terrestrial healthy lakes project in the area and created a 350-square foot garden along the lakeshore. The entire garden is within a 30-foot viewing corridor created so there is still a nice view of the lake. That area, along with another 30 feet of new planting was done the first year, with the rest of the lakeshore planted in 60-foot sections in consecutive years, one section in 2016 and the final section in 2017.
The restoration is done with all native plants. Deer fencing was needed for the first couple years after each planting, but once established, the entire lakeshore is completely maintenance free. The plantings have brought back insects, dragonflies, and songbirds. Butkus and his family find the new view much more interesting. “Visually, it is more appealing to us,” he explained, adding that it’s nice to have more to look at than just the lake.
Most of the native plants used in the restoration of the property do attract pollinators, including hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. He also noted that the variety of plants means “something’s blooming all the time,” and enjoys the black-eyed Susans, lupines, and native bee balms that are flourishing along the lakeshore. Dan has also noticed a decrease in the mosquito population at his home, which is due to the return of birds and beneficial insects.
Yet, with all these positive comments, Butkus said people are often afraid to incorporate native plantings in their yards, thinking it will look unkempt or messy; however, he and his family prefer the “wild garden” as opposed to a manicured look, remarking, “You can do something natural, and it can still be pretty.”
Lakeshore restoration is often used to control erosion, and vegetation is one way to help stabilize the shore. The use of native plants is an important part of any lakeshore restoration project (and often required), and incorporating pollinator-friendly plants into the project plan may now help with securing a grant as well. Depending upon the agency, adding pollinator-friendly plantings can increase the point value given to your project. It is this value which is used to selecting grant winners.
For more information on lakeshore restoration, contact the Wisconsin DNR, your county Land and Water Conservation office, or your lake association.