July 22 – 28, 2022Vol. 24, No. 7

LakeSmart is Water Quality Smart

A giant carved wooden bear sits on a tree stump next to a sign declaring the property a “LakeSmart Award” winner for 2021.

by Anthony Wilson

Climate change is impacting water quality in the Belgrade Lakes watershed. Larger and more violent rainstorms wash dirt into lakes and streams; dirt contains phosphorous upon which algae feeds. Also, warmer temperatures seem to arrive earlier, linger longer and run hotter than many lifelong Mainers recall from years past. A warmer, longer growing season gives algae a greater chance to bloom.

Here’s the hard truth: There is little we as individuals — or we as 7 Lakes Alliance — can do to stem climate change. That underscores the urgency to take feasible actions that can stabilize water quality in the region’s streams and lakes.

One imminently doable action shorefront property owners can take is determining whether their properties are “LakeSmart.” LakeSmart is an education and outreach program of the conservation group Maine Lakes. Administered in the Belgrade Lakes watershed by 7 Lakes, the program recognizes lakefront property owners who manage their land to protect water quality. The program is free, voluntary and non-regulatory. Participating property owners receive individualized suggestions for keeping dirt from being swept into lakes and streams by weather events.

The program begins with an assessment of a property, performed either by a 7 Lakes Alliance staff member or a trained volunteer. To request a free survey, email 7 Lakes Erosion Control Project Coordinator Stuart Cole. Surveys identify what property owners can do to mitigate or minimize runoff. Common recommendations include planting vegetative buffers and/or installing riprap along shorelines, defining parking areas and walking paths with rock aggregate or erosion-control mulch, installing driplines beneath eaves, blocking erosion from roads and driveways with rubber razor, and building infiltration steps and rain gardens.

7 Lakes can also help make recommendations a reality. Property owners who have undergone a LakeSmart assessment often enlist 7 Lakes’ Youth Conservation Corps to provide the labor to implement the suggestions. YCC work projects are also coordinated through Stuart, who seeks state permits that may be needed and can help secure materials such as mulch and riprap. Property owners pay for the materials; the YCC provides the labor at a minimal cost.

Properties that meet the program’s standards earn the LakeSmart designation, along with a sign indicating the owner’s conservation mindset. The hope is this visible recognition will encourage neighbors to also make their properties LakeSmart.

Preserving water quality is one way lakefront property owners can protect the often substantial financial investments they make in their properties. Beyond that, preserving water quality in the Belgrade Lakes watershed ensures the lakefront legacies that many families enjoy will endure for years to come.

Anthony Wilson is the 7 Lakes Alliance’s communication director. You can write to him at anthony.wilson@7lakesalliance.org.

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