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Hanson: Lake Wise

Gayle Hanson
Shoreline camp improvements may include planting a rain garden and installing terraced gravel steps.

Along our stretch of lakeshore, some folks are already pulling their docks from the water. And the pressure to consume as many maple creemees as possible before school starts has begun. But while some of us are starting to put away our summer toys Vermont's Lake Wise Program will stay busy all year round – so when the time comes to put the raft in next year - the water around it will be cleaner, and the shoreline better protected.

For despite the external beauty of our waters, in 2012 when the Environmental Protection Agency last surveyed the health of the nations's lakes and ponds, Vermont ranked at the bottom of New England states, thanks to development, run-off, and poor management.

Now Lake Wise wants to work with everyone from private property owners to municipalities to reverse that standing. Which is why Amy Picott of the Agency of Natural Resources, was standing at the top of my driveway recently, clipboard and check list in hand, ready to walk me through what it takes to become a Lake Wise certified property.

I figured we'd go straight to the shore, check out the existing plants, admire the lovely perennial garden and she'd be on her way. But no, she explained, Lake Wise might end up at the shore, but it starts at the driveway. We’d look at four things, she said: the driveway, the yard, the septic and the lakeshore.

So for the next two hours we walked the land from the top of the driveway to the dock, while she pointed out areas in need of more love. The good news was our camp was already certified, and would stay that way. The bad news was that storm erosion was threatening our cabin.

Better news included some great solutions like plant a rain garden and put in some terraced gravel steps. But the best news was that Lake Wise might have a Conservation Corp crew to help with the heavy lifting, and it wouldn't cost us a dime.

When she left I had tons of information, a better understanding of exactly what I should and shouldn't do and so much enthusiasm for the program that I might even host a Septic Social in the Spring.

Gayle Hanson is a long-time VT writer and editor. She has been a meditation teacher for 20 years and is a passionate advocate for community-based mentoring and adoptee rights.
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