Camp Rental Responsibility
by Jodie Mosher-Towle
Let's face it, everyone loves to make extra money especially when it can be done with what seems like little to no effort. Could be you're not able to travel to camp every weekend or circumstances beyond your control are keeping you away from the lake for weeks at a time. Whatever the reason, you may believe renting your camp out to make some "effortless" money is the way to go since you aren't able to be there anyway. Environmentally speaking, the cost of renting out your camp can come with a steep price; the depletion of your lake's water quality.
More and more camp owners jumping on the rental bandwagon without giving much thought about the wear and tear on their shore frontage is cause for concern in the Belgrade watershed. With almost all of the lakes in the Belgrade watershed working on 10-year Watershed Based Management Plans, the water quality of your lake, the lake your guests are paying to enjoy, the one you purchased for your family and friends to make memories, matters.
This article was prompted after seeing photos online for a rental lake property on a website posted 2-3 years ago then updated photos of the same rental property seen on a different website spring of 2021. The owners lived out of state and relied on others to keep their eye on things. It was shocking to see that the entire 4-5 feet tall hemlocks in a 5-6 foot wide buffer 75 feet across the shoreline, completely gone. The lush buffer taken care of by just leaving it alone was gone in one summer, perhaps damaged by just one renter. To make matters worse, the property has a steep slope with rain and everything else in its direct path running straight into the lake with no LakeSmart "tools" to redirect it or slow it down. The hope is that this is an extreme example of careless renters and this will never happen to your property because you are going to take precautions and prepare your renters with your expectations.
Now that you are aware of your responsibility as a waterfront property owner turned rental manager, be sure to educate and inform your renters the importance of respecting the use of your shoreline as much as they are respecting their ability to use your camp. Update your house rules and once you have established possible trouble spots on your property, perhaps you can't make improvements at this time, create and include an outside property rules checklist or a DOs and DONT's list about responsible lake life as a renter as well.
Another effective tool is to include specific expectations in your online camp and property description. Keep in mind, most renters don't know what they don't know, so ask yourself what you would want to know if you were the renter of someone else's camp. Placing your lake's current newsletter and Summertime in the Belgrades newspaper near House and outside property rules is a wonderful way to introduce people to your watershed and to share that you are part of a lake community mindful of the importance of water quality.
There are many easy ways to help yourself become more knowledgeable. To start, take a quick inventory of your shoreline or shorefrontage by using this handy online checklist from NHLakes.
Maine.gov offers many excellent resources on a few sites:
- Clearing Vegetation in the Shoreland Zone
- Shoreline Landscaping for Lake Protection
- Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act
Maine Lakes offers a plethora of information about LakeSmart for you as well. Here in the Belgrade watershed, contact Art Grindle, LakeSmart coordinator via 7 Lakes Alliance at 495-6039 to set up an appointment, get more information, or find out who your LakeSmart contact is on your lake. After all, beautifying your waterfront with a buffer full of deeply rooted plants not only enhances your rental property but it also serves the purpose of keeping runoff water out of the lake and renters less likely to feel like they can cut or pull plants. Be sure to provide plenty of campfire wood and marshmallow roasting sticks so renters are not tempted to cut small trees, branches, shrubs directly from your shoreline buffer area to use.
No matter if you use the popular online agencies like VRBO, Airbnb or any other property rental management company, it is up to you, the property owner, to make sure your waterfront, not just your camp, is being used respectfully and responsibly. Now get busy!
Jodie Mosher-Towle is president of the North Pond Association.